butternut squash ice cream with caramel sauce

Butternut squash ice cream with caramel sauce

A while ago, I mentioned an exciting new photography related project that I would potentially get involved in, well here it is. Each month, I get to pick and interview one of my favorite food photographers and share it with you on the Huffington Post Taste section. If you haven't had a chance check out the first interview check it out 

here

. I'm having a lot of fun with this new project and I hope to talk to some of the many photographers whose work continues to inspire and amaze me. 

A Scoop of butternut squash ice cream

Now back to the food, this is one of my favorite new flavors for seasonal ice creams. Just because it's cold, it doesn't mean I am not going to make or eat ice cream. I think ice creams and sorbets are desserts that can be adapted and eaten at any time of the year. They also make the cold weather a little more delightful.

All I will say here is that butternut squash with swirls of frozen caramel sauce in an ice cream is simply amazing. This is one flavor combination that really surprised me in a good way! It' also one of my new fun ways to eat squash. To prepare the butternut squash puree, you can either buy raw precut butternut squash from your local grocery store or peel and cut the squash into one inch chunks. Microwave the squash pieces for about 3 minutes and then pulse the entire thing in a food processor to get a smooth puree. I have not tried roasting the butternut squash for this recipe but I think it should work fine but the roasting could potentially change the taste a little. I find the microwaving method faster and easier and any excess squash that I don't end up using gets frozen for later use.

The extra caramel sauce that did not go into layering the ice cream, I refrigerated and then served it on the side before warming it up slightly. I've loosely based my recipe using the basic ice cream base from

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home - Jenni Britton Bauer

Butternutsquash caramel sauce icecream

butternut squash ice cream with caramel sauce

yields:

6 servings

ingredients

1 cup butternut squash puree, unsweetened

2 cups whole milk + 2 tablespoons of milk

1 1/4 cup heavy cream

2/3 cup (5 1/4 ounces)  raw dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 1/2 tablespoons cornflour

1. Add the butternut squash puree, 2 cups of milk, cream, sugar, and honey into a thick bottomed stock pot and bring to a boil on a medium high-flame, whisking occasionally. After 4 minutes of boiling reduce to a gentle simmer.

2. Mix the two tablespoons of milk and cornflour in a small bowl to make a slurry. Pour and whisk by hand the slurry into the hot butternut squash mixture. Cook the liquid for another 2 minutes on medium-high heat until the mixture begins to thicken.  Remove from heat.

3. Place the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. Whisk it a little and then add about one cup of the hot ice cream base. Whisk by hand until smooth, add the rest of the ice cream base and whisk till combined.

4 Transfer the liquid into a gallon ziploc bag and seal. Place in an ice-water bath and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.

5. Pour the ice cream mixture into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker and churn as per directions of your manufacturer. 

6. Layer half of the ice cream into a freezer-safe air-tight container. Drizzle 1/4 cup of the prepared caramel sauce (instructions below) and then layer again with the rest of the ice cream followed by another 1/4 cup of the caramel sauce. Cover the top layer with parchment paper, place the lid on top of the container and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving. 

caramel sauce

yields:

approximately 1 cup

ingredients

2/3 cup raw dark brown sugar

1 1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Add the brown sugar to a thick bottomed stockpot and heat on a medium high flame with constant stirring. As soon as the sugar begins to melt it will start to caramelize, cook for 1 minute (if you like the sauce darker then cook it for another 1 minute, but be careful to not burn the sugar completely). 2. Remove the stockpot from the flame and carefully pour in the heavy cream. Add the salt. Bring the mixture back to the stove and stir on a medium-high flame to dissolve any hardened caramel completely. 

3. Transfer the sauce to sandwich size ziploc bag, seal and cool for 20 minutes in an ice water bath.

brandied gingerbread cake

Zesting gingerbread cake

Ginger is by far one of my favorite ingredients to cook and eat. Though I consume ginger throughout the year, it somehow moves up the ladder in my kitchen to become one of the most popular ingredients as soon as the weather begins to cool down. Those delicious warm and zesty notes in ginger are probably the main reason why I fall in love with this spice year after year. 

Paddle and batter

Gingerbread cake is one dessert that I make a few times every holiday season and each time the recipe changes a little. This version of the cake is earthy with whole-grain buckwheat flour that's flavored with a blend of delicious spices and the sweetness of molasses and brown sugar. I sometimes throw in a little bit of crystallized ginger  bits (a generous 2/3 cup amount, lightly tossed in flour added at the final stage of the batter preparation) into the batter to give it an extra special kick but this time I left it out. This cake represents my slightly boozy and whole-grain twist on this delicious traditional dessert. I've added in brandy and orangecello into the cake batter and the sauce. If you can't find orangecello then orange juice will work fine too. If you want to skip the brandy completely that is fine too, I would recommend swapping the apple cider and orange juice (use the same volumes) for the brandy and orangecello. 

Baked gingerbread cake

I prefer serving this cake warm with the fresh lime zest scattered all over the cake, though it tastes delicious when cool too. The lime zest really lightens the flavors of the spices in the cake. The brandy sauce permeates through every bit of the cake without making the cake too soggy yet keeping the cake moist. However, if you want to reduce the alcohol and make the cake less boozy, I would recommend simmering the alcohol for a longer time (approximately 20 minutes) or you could carefully flambé the sauce to get rid of most of the alcohol (I've done it both ways but simmering for a longer time is easier and safer and you can always add a little water to the sauce to dilute the flavors if they become too concentrated). 

Brandied gingerbread cake

brandied gingerbread cake

yields: 10-12 servings/ 9" x 9" X 2 " square pan

ingredients

1 1/2  cups (7 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (3 3/4 ounces) buckwheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons dried ginger powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon cloves, freshly ground
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/2 cup (3 3/8 ounces) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, cold
3/4 cup dark molasses, unsulphured
1/4 cup orangecello (or fresh orange juice)
3 tablespoons brandy (or apple cider)
1 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
zest of one lime, fresh  

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and set the rack in the lower third position of the oven. Line the baking pan with parchment paper and keep aside.
2. Mix and sift the dry ingredients from the flour to the cloves, three times and keep aside.
3. Fix the paddle attachment to a stand mixer. In the mixing bowl of the stand mixer, add the butter and brown sugar and beat on medium-low speed until creamy. Add one egg at a time and beat the batter for 40 seconds at medium-high until all the eggs have been added. Mix in the molasses, orangecello and brandy at medium-low speed.
4. Add half of the sifted dry ingredients to the batter and mix at medium-low speed. Add the yogurt to the batter along with the rest of the dry ingredients and mix at medium-low speed until completely combined. 
5. Quickly transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until firm to touch in the center or until a skewer when inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. 
6. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the cake and drizzle with the warm brandy sauce (instructions below) evenly over the cake.  Allow the cake to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving, to allow the cake to absorb the sauce. Just before serving, garnish the cake with the fresh lime zest. 

spiced brandy sauce

yields: about 1 - 1 1/2 cups

ingredients

1 cup brandy (or apple cider)
1/2 cup orangecello (or orange juice)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
4 cloves
1" cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon dry ginger powder 

Mix all the ingredients together in a thick bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil on a medium high flame. Reduce the flame to low and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove from flame, pass the sauce through a strainer and discard the spices. Reserve the sauce and keep aside until ready to pour over the cake.

hot and sweet cornbread stuffing

Cornbread Stuffing

It's the week of Thanksgiving, I am not hosting my own dinner but rather heading off to my friend Tyler's parents' home. His mother, Susan, is a load of fun and over time we have bonded over important topics such as food and T.V. shows. I will admit that getting invited to someone else's home for the holiday dinner lifts quite a bit of work off your shoulder and for that I am thankful once again! Although I am making an appetizer and dessert for Susan's dinner, I am thrilled that I don't have to make a huge turkey and all the other sides and desserts that are a staple of this fall tradition. However, a few items were requested at home and one of them is this cornbread stuffing that I make every year, for both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Carrot and Fennel

Thanksgiving is a time for family traditions. Some people love sausage and bread in their stuffing, while others make theirs hot or sweet. Every family that I know of takes their favorite recipe and improves on it, year after year, making it more personal and special. The sharing of good eats and of course the long holiday break is what I love most about Thanksgiving.  For me, I like my stuffing a little hot and sweet, here the cornbread serves as the base and I infused it with the rich flavors and colors of fall vegetables. The sweetness of the cornbread, apples, carrots, orange juice, and cider complement the heat of the chopped jalapenos to give a delicious fusion. Since Thanksgiving menus are generally long with several dishes to be prepared, I try to keep this recipe simple and flavorful but delicious. On these particular days a few minutes saved goes a long way.

Jalapenos and barberries

If you can't find barberries, use sweetened cranberries. They both impart a rich red color, yet very different flavor working very well in this stuffing.  If you've started to notice, I am always looking for ways to use wine, and I've successfully done so in this recipe.  Used properly, if not consumed first, wine makes a fabulous alternative for vegetable/fruit stock.  Also, feel free to use your favorite plain cornbread recipe to prepare this stuffing, giving it your own unique and personal touch. Have a wonderful, Thanksgiving holiday!

Sauteed Veggies

hot and sweet cornbread stuffing

servings: 10-12

ingredients

4 cups cornbread, coarsely cubed
1 cup diced white onion
1 medium size fennel bulb, diced
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 cup barberries or sweetened cranberries
1 Granny Smith Apple, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pickeled jalapenos, chopped
1/4 stick frozen butter, diced into small cubes
1/2 apple cider juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup white wine ( I used a Pinot Blanc)
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pan or pot, heat the olive oil on a medium flame. Add the onion, fennel, carrots, and barberries. Saute the vegetables until they are tender but not brown. This will take about 10 minutes.
2. Add the apples and jalapenos to the pot and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
3. Season with salt and pepper according to taste. Switch the flame off.
4. In a large bowl, mix the cornbread with the sauteed vegetables. Pour in the juices and wine and fold gently.
5. Preheat the oven to 350F.
6. Layout the mixed cornbread and vegetables along with the liquid in a baking pan. Randomly, sprinkle the cubed butter over the top of the stuffing. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or till the crust is golden brown. 
7. Once baked the crust will be golden brown and most of the liquid has evaporated. Serve warm.

ruffled blueberry chocolate cake


Last weekend we drove to Virginia to visit the Fall Harvest festival at Mount Rogers. Fall is is one of the most beautiful seasons to visit the Virginia outdoors and enjoy the beautiful colorful foliage. I was very lucky on this trip, for many, many reasons. I got to see sugarcane being harvested and squeezed for its sweet juice. I watched molasses being prepared from the sugarcane juice over a hot stove. The molasses are sold in pint jars to raise money for the local fireman's station. A worthy cause indeed! I tasted my first hobo pie, picked up some homemade apple butter, ate ripe and juicy red apples off a tree. There was just so much to do and too much to squeeze in a short two day trip. 


Unlike D.C. where it is currently still relatively green, the Virginia fall is in full swing. It was also pretty chilly in the evenings but nevertheless breathtaking. I couldn't wait to share these photographs with you and I do hope you enjoy them!


I got to bite and chew on fresh sugarcane and sampled their sticky sweetness. The sugarcane juice brought back sweet memories of India. As kids growing up, we would always run out to the vendors on the street in the Bombay and wait eagerly while they ground the juices out of sugarcane and fresh ginger into glasses heaped with ice. It was so refreshing and simple but yet delicious.


Last weekend was also the birthday of one of my friends, Walt. Birthdays and special events are probably the only few times that I will actually venture out in making a cake that is rich and decadent. It turns out that Walt loves blueberries and any cake that incorporated blueberries would be perfect for him. In my personal opinion however, birthday cakes should have some amount of chocolate. After all, it is that a special moment where things should be a little over the top. In preparation for Walt's cake, I made the blueberry and chocolate jam. I designed his birthday cake completely around these two ingredients. Genoise chocolate cakes are layered and sandwiched with the jam and lightly drenched with a blueberry-white wine syrup. I then used a vanilla flavored buttercream icing that was spiked with a little creme fraiche to keep things simple yet rich. On how to decorate the cake with the ruffles, I used this icing idea from Martha Stewart.


ruffled blueberry chocolate cake

ingredients

for the chocolate cake  follow this chocolate genoise sponge cake recipe. I made two 9 inch cakes, sliced each in half, and then layered them. If you want more cake layers you can either increase the number of cakes or cut thinner layers of the cakes. If you do this, then you should increase the amount of jam, syrup, and icing accordingly.

for the blueberry chocolate jam follow this recipe. You will need 1 and 1/2 cups of the jam. You can use less if you prefer the cake to be a little less sweet.

blueberry wine syrup

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup white wine like Reisling or Chardonnay (I used the Pearmund Reisling 2011)
1 cup sugar

Mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan. Cook on a medium flame till the sugar dissolves completely. Bring to a boil and then cool to room temperature before use. You can also refrigerate this and prepare it at least 3 days in advance.

buttercream icing

2 cups unsalted sweetcream butter at room temperature
3 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
10 drops of blue food coloring ( you may need more depending on how blue you want the icing to look)
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
No. 104 icing tip

Chop the butter into small cubes and place it in the bowl of an electric blender. Using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and creme fraiche at a medium speed for about 6 minutes till it is completely smooth. Sift the sugar once onto a sheet of parchment paper. Sift the sugar into the butter in 1/2 cup installments till completely mixed in with the butter. The butter will keep getting lighter as more air is incorporated into it. Add the vanilla, salt, and food coloring at the end and beat for another two minutes. Transfer the icing into a bowl (preferably metal as it will chill faster) and cover with cling film until ready to use. You can make the icing at least two to three days in advance. 

Assembling the cake
Slice each cooled cake in half with a serrated knife and keep aside. Cut out a 10" circle of cardboard and cover with a clean sheet of aluminum foil and two 12 inch X 2 inch strips of parchment paper. Place the two strips about 2 or 3 inches apart from each other on the smooth side of the aluminum covered cardboard circle. Add a tablespoon of the frosting in the center of the aluminum covered cardboard sheet. This will help to glue the cake down to the surface and prevent it from moving. Place one cake layer in the center of the circle and brush the cake with the blueberry wine syrup. You will use about 1/4 cup of the liquid. Smear the surface it with about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the blueberry and chocolate jam. Cover with a second layer of cake and repeat. Continue and repeat the addition of the syrup and jam till the entire cake is complete. For the top most layer of the cake, only brush the cake with the syrup but do not add the jam. Place the cake in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to cool. 

Icing the cake

Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of the buttercream icing to create a "crumb coat". This helps the rest of the icing to stick easily to the surface of the cake. Cool the cake in the refrigerator for another 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, scoop the icing into an icing bag or icing syringe with the No. 104 tip attached. Make sure there are no air bubbles in the icing bag. When the cake is cooled, apply the icing by keeping your hand in the vertical position and moving in a zig-zag fashion from left -to-right on the side of the cake. The ruffles should be 1 inch apart from each other. Repeat the same procedure for the top surface of the cake, moving from the outer end to the inner center of the cake. Additionally, you might want to dollop a little bit of jam in the center of the cake or perhaps sprinkle a little bit of chocolate shavings on the top.