Monday, July 23, 2012

Strawberry Balsamic Ice-Cream

The Bi-Rite Creamery was on top of my to-do list when I returned to San Francisco for a visit last year. We went there one afternoon, and to our surprise, the line up was relatively short. I had their renowned salted caramel and coffee toffee. After spending a year in Italy, I know a thing or two about ice creams. And I think the combination of all ingredients in my two scoops was simply fantastic.

So when I heard that Bi-Rite has published a cookbook this year, revealing their innovative ice cream flavors, I got very excited. I chose balsamic strawberry as my first recipe to try out. Since strawberries were in season, and I could pick them fresh from the field. I was also curious of what the balsamic vinegar would do to the flavor. The vinegar enhanced the strawberry flavor. The balsamic vinegar I used was even infused with strawberry, which intensified the aroma.

Often home-made ice-cream gets rock hard in the freezer and develops to many ice-crystals. This one was still creamy even after I had frozen it for a while. I think that has something to do with the high fat content that this recipe asks for. In addition, the strawberry pieces were also cooked before added to the ice-cream mixture, further reducing the water content. Once taken out of the freezer, the ice-cream only need be thawed for a few minutes before you can enjoy the balsamic inspired strawberry flavor.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rhubarb Meringue Pie

I wrote this post a little too late. Rhubarb season is pretty much over, at least in Germany. If you are lucky you might be able to pick up a couple stalks, however. If not, why not save the recipe for next year? I definitely will, since this was my favorite rhubarb cake this year.

A good indicator for a great cake is always if people who usually take care of their waistline take seconds, like my sweet cousin ;-). But the meringue is really heavenly and fits perfectly to the tart filling.

The recipe I used is from Martha Stewart. The original recipe uses only the juice from the rhubarb, but instead I used the whole compote. Rhubarb falls apart after it is cooked, so it still gave a very nice texture to the cake.

The cake reminds me a of a lemon meringue pie, which I always love, but when in season I will make the rhubarb version again.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Strawberry Amaretto Mini-Cakes

Sometimes a little bite is just enough. Not too long ago I bought a silicone sunflower mini-cake form, and I have been waiting to use it. With strawberries in season this recipe was an easy choice to try it out. Those little guys are bursting in flavor, no wonder since they also have a good amount of booze in it.

While silicone is very easy to use, it doesn't conduct heat as well as the metal forms. So you need to make sure the dough is cooked through before taking it out of the oven, or you will end up with a bunch of bite-sized half-baked doughs.

Make sure you make enough of them, freshly baked they just jumped in everybody's mouth and were gone in no time.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Matcha Ice-Cream and a trip to Tokyo

In a recent post I wrote you about our trip to Shanghai. The second part of our trip to Asia brought us to Tokyo, which was a completely different experience. While I was there, I saw that Japanese green tea, or matcha, was used very often as a key dessert and pastry ingredient. There are even matcha Kit-Kats and matcha candies. After being in Tokyo, I have decided to make my own matcha dessert. Why not start with the most popular of all; the matcha ice cream.

But before we go on with the receipe, I would like to tell you about my experience in Japan. As with China, it was also my very first time in Japan. Tokyo is incomparable to everything I have seen before. It is very busy, but at the same time calm and orderly. The people are very polite, and the taxi drivers are even all dressed up in suits, ties, and gloves. When you are in a big department store, you will see the the staff bowing at you, sometimes even in formation. If you are used to the chaos in China, it might take you some time to readjust to the almost sterile atmosphere that is in Tokyo.

It is also very hard to find your away around, whether you are Japanese or not. There are no street numbers in Japan, only neighborhoods and blocks. Then add to it the fact that some places are just so huge, you really don't know where you are until it's too late. The biggest train/metro station in Tokyo, the Shinjuku Station, has more than 60 exits, in a huge underground labyrinth. If you end up going to the wrong exit, you won't be able to trace your way back. Sometimes, that's part of the joy in traveling, isn't it.

The food in Japan is well known for its total perfection. Everything is beautifully executed and arranged, and has flavors that are unique to the dish. The sushi is, of course, fantastic, whether you are in cheap kaiten sushi joints, or in more upscale establishments in the Tsukiji area. However, there are also food items I find strange, like the chicken sashimi, which I would not incline to try.

Of course I had to pay a visit to the famous p√Ętissier Hidemi Sugino. I have heard stories from other bloggers, who had to endure long line ups, only to find out their favorite pastries had been sold out. Luckily, it was around the corner from my hotel in Ginza. We went around midday, there was still a broad selection to choose from, and the service was very prompt. I have to say, it was the best pastry I have ever experienced. Everything down to the texture and temperature tasted just right.

Despite being a progressive hi-tech society, the Japanese are also very traditionally minded. They have some of the most immaculate train and communication systems in the world, and yet you see a lot of Japanese, still observing their traditions. It is not uncommon in the metropolis like Tokyo to see women shopping in their elegant kimonos, or people going to temples, keeping in touch with their spirituality. These two seemingly polar opposites exist in harmony, and gave the Japanese people their unique cultural identity. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to see the famous Geisha or Geiko while I was there.

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