Pavlovas

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I found myself with a few extra egg whites after this recipe, and decided to make pavlovas. Pavlovas are meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. They have a crisp crust and soft, light inside and are tyically served with fruit or whipped cream.This tasty dessert is relatively easy to make and requires only a handful of ingredients. Make sure you eat them within 24 hours otherwise they will become very chewy and lose their delicious texture.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces, about 6) large egg whites, preferably room temperature
  • Pinch of salt

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 275°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the vanilla and vinegar into a cup. Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl. In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites and salt, until soft peaks start to become visible, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually add the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour in the vanilla and vinegar. Increase speed and whip until meringue is glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted.

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Spoon the meringue into round mounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With the back of a spoon, create an indentation in the middle of the mound for holding the filling once meringue is baked.

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Place baking sheet in the oven.Reduce oven temperature to 250°F. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside, and white, not tan-colored or cracked. The interiors should have a marshmallow-like consistency. Check on meringues at least once during the baking time. If they appear to be taking on color or cracking, reduce temperature 25 degrees, and turn pan around.

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Once ready, lift from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. They will crack a bit in the middle but since you will fill them up, that’s ok.

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Serve topped with your favorite filling – fresh fruit, lemon curd, raspberry or blueberry sauce, or freshly whipped cream.

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Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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A few days ago I made these sea salt caramel brownies and then decided they’d go perfectly with a nice scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. I used a simple recipe egg-custard recipe and some of my own vanilla extract to create this easy dessert. 

What you’ll need: 

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup milk 
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and scraped, 
  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract 
  • 6 large egg yolks

What to do: 

Combine cream, half-and-half, vanilla extract, vanilla beans and seeds in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once it begins to boil, remove from heat, cover and allow it to steep for about 15 minutes. 

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Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar in a second large bowl until smooth and fluffy. It should have a light yellow color.  

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Add cream mixture from heat and slowly pour about 1 cup into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly until smooth. Add the rest of the cream slowly, while continuing to whisk (on low) the mixture. Pour cream-egg mixture back into the pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until custard coats the spoon, about 2 minutes. Make sure to not over-cook. 

Remove custard from heat and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, scraping as much vanilla bean through the strainer as possible. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, about 10 to 15 minutes. Then cover and place in the refrigerator to chill completely, at least 3 hours. Your mixture should be completely chilled before you add it to your ice cream maker. Once chilled, use your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions then freeze overnight and serve.

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This light and creamy ice cream is the perfect addition to a warm brownie, can be served with one of these delectable chocolate chip cookies or scooped on top of this bourbon peach cobbler. 

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A cooking frenzy

This past weekend I found myself trapped inside my apartment, while a monsoon proceeded to flood New York City. It seems like summer has really forgotten about us. With my plans ruined (they all involved going outside the 4 walls of my apartment) I decided to take this chance to cook a few dishes for the week. Here’s a few of the items I prepared.

Root Vegetable Soup with Truffle Oil

Last week I went to Whole Foods and was seduced by two adorable bottles of truffle oil. Though I’ve never cooked with truffle oil in the past, I’ve eaten dishes cooked with it several times and all of them have been spectacularly memorable. I found this easy, delicious recipe from Emeril Lagasse that needed just a few tablespoons of the oil and sounded absolutely delicious. I kicked it up a notch with a little bit of lemon and pepper and served it while hot. It tasted like… my mouth was being invaded by the Delicious Army and I was more than happy to welcome all of its yummy soldiers ( too much?) In other words, it’s amazing. Make it and eat all of it.

Baked Salmon with Toasted Almonds

This was a recipe I made up myself. I’ve been trying to eat fish at least once a week and though I usually prefer white fish, this weekend I went for Salmon. Since I was making so many things at the same time I went for an easy recipe. I washed the fresh salmon and drizzled it with some olive oil, rubbed it with salt, a little bit of pepper and lemon juice, then coated each piece in toasted slivered almonds. I baked it for 30 minutes, uncovered at 450 degrees. The end result is a crunchy, juicy and tangy fish.

Chocolate Cheesecake

I can’t have a real Sunday cook off unless I make some dessert. There is one thing that is never missing in my fridge and no it’s not water ( actually I never have any water ), it’s dessert. This is one of Nigella Lawson‘s recipes and though I’ve never made one of her dishes before, it turned out pretty good. I didn’t make my own crust because my sous chef (aka overly excited dessert loving boyfriend) thought it would be too time consuming, so I ended up using a premade Oreo Cookie Pie Crust which complimented the chocolate cheesecake really well. This particular recipe calls for the use of a water bath. This is a technique that is very popular in Albanian cooking so I’m quite familiar with it, however if this is your first time doing it, a small trick is to place the cake in the larger pan and put it in the oven. Then use a glass of water to fill up the (larger) pan slowly until the water reaches half way up to the smaller pan. Once the cheesecake has cooked, remove it from the larger pan and set it aside to cool. Leave the pan filled with water inside the oven until the water has cooled, otherwise you risk seriously hurting yourself.

Cheesecake Balls 

I made a little bit too much of the cheesecake batter so I baked the rest in my cupcake pan. They took about 20 minutes to bake. Once they had coolied I mixed them with two tablespoons of cream cheese and formed little balls which I dipped in chocolate. I’ve done the same in the past with Oreos and they turned out absolutely amazing. Refrigerate the little “truffles” for a few hours and feel free to pop a few in your mouth for breakfast. The more time goes by, the better they taste.