Spring & Scotch

Week 1: Creme, Tart, Spring

Weekend agenda:

  • Make twinkies
  • Make something with rhubarb
  • Learn how to make spring rolls

1. Made the easiest thing first: rhubarb syrup for cocktails, or as I’m enjoying it most, over ice with seltzer water and a slice of lime for a refreshingly tart soda. A couple stalks of rhubarb, some lime juice and sugar (from past experience I’ve learned to always use less sugar than a recipe calls for; not all rhubarb is tongue-twisting sour, so it’s better to start with less and build as needed). Also good mixed in gin & tonics.

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2. Made the second-easiest thing next, vegetarian spring rolls, an item M & I order nearly every time we see ‘em on a menu and so frequently that we have restaurants rated by spring roll. (Best ones in Seattle that we’ve discovered so far are at the Tamarind Tree . . . they have a ridiculously too-long menu, but if you bring us beers, and spring rolls [and keep 'em coming], we’ll be perfectly content.

So it finally occurred to me that since M & I also like lounging around in the park or beach on sunny days as well as camping, wouldn’t it be economical and tasty to just wrap up our favorite veggies and get on with our tans? I’m almost embarrassed to discover how easy spring rolls are to create. Once I found the wrappers (they’re not near the egg roll, wonton or pot sticker wrappers in the refrigerator section; just go directly to the Asian section of your grocery store and find them all stiff and shrink-wrapped like dinner plate-sized communion wafers). So you do all your veggie prep, fill a shallow bowl (I used a 9 x 13 pan) with hot water, dip a wafer in for 15 seconds, then carefully lift the transparent and flexible wrapper out to drain for a couple of seconds, then place on a towel. Dab the top to remove any excess water.  Arrange your fillings in the center, avoiding the urge to overfill. We used microgreens, cilantro, julienned carrots and cucumbers, and sliced avocado. Fold the bottom up and over, turn in the sides, roll up all the way and set aside to proceed with the rest of the rolls. Dip in spicy peanut sauce and crack open a Rainier beer or two and toast your good life. They were so good I forgot to photograph them, but I’ll save that honor for future rolls.

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3. The Twinkie experiments begin!

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I first tried a white sponge cake that was intended to be paired with strawberries and whipped cream. Result: nice and light and spongy, but bland. Then I tried a recipe that claimed it was a Twinkie recipe. Got the color right, but so dense and heavy there’s not room for a cream filling . . . not moist enough. But the batter itself? Significantly lightened with whipped egg whites, it was delicious. I had more than a couple spoon fulls. I’m not normally a cake batter lover, but this was so yummy that I was surprised the cake was so drab.

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Recall that idea I had a couple posts back for whipped cream flavored with banana? I went ahead and pulverized some freeze-dried bananas and folded them into whipped cream that I’d stabilized with gelatin. The result? I was slathering thick servings of it on top of the twinkie cakes, then finally dismissing the cake for the cream exclusively. Real banana flavor, and so creamy. This is a keeper that will make a return in other desserts.

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Went to work and got a hot tip from our resident chef; Barbara will be sending me a Twinkie recipe that should closely approximate actual Twinkie flavor and texture and I’ll be trying it out with a strawberry-banana cream filling.

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———

Week 2: Ice, Smoke, Scotch

This week I discovered Sur La Table sells an item called Smoked Brown Sugar. I got a whiff before I left work today and it’s followed me everywhere. Amazing, sharp, tangy wood on top of molasses and caramel. Perfect for baked beans, or roasted with apricots and peaches on the grill . . .in a fruit crisp.  The blurb online recommends barbecue ribs, crème brûlée, grilled salmon, pulled pork, acorn squash. I’m thinking the salted caramel ice cream trend could use an update, honestly. Smoked butterscotch ice cream, anyone?

I also decided I’m tired of buying $4 coffee every morning so I made a big–

Jug o’ Iced Coffee

1 lb ground coffee

8 qts cold water

Mix coffee with water. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature 8 hours or overnight. Line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth and set over a pitcher or other container. Pour coffee/water mixture through the strainer, allowing all liquid to run through. Discard grounds. Place coffee liquid in the fridge to chill. Use as needed.

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I also discovered that adding chocolate to a balsamic vinaigrette is a good thing. Shaved chocolate melted into vinegar and whisked into oil. The chocolate adds a lovely depth to the vinegar.

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Olive oil, balsamic, chocolate: together?

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On Friday I attended a Sur La Table Bread-making Workshop where I made Raisin, Rosemary and Cinnamon Focaccia, a cute little Sourdough loaf, Pesto Rolls and an Old-Fashioned Sandwich Loaf. This has made me determine that my refrigerator is in need of a permanent new resident–a sourdough starter.

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And of course, I made one more attempt at the Twinkies. This time I tried one new cake recipe and two new cream filling flavors. The cake flavor is right….texture still not there. The white shortening-based room-temp stable cream was disgusting and went entirely into the trash, sans two spoons to test. The strawberry-banana whipped cream was awesome. At this point, it’s safe to say I’m twinkied out and ready to move on.

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How about I go ahead and finish off the week with Smoked Butterscotch Ice Cream!

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Smoked Butterscotch Ice Cream

1 cup firmly packed Darkhorse smoked brown sugar

2 T. butter

1 T. Orlando Mexican vanilla

2 t. bourbon

1 1/2 c. whipping cream

2 c. half -n-half

6 large egg yolks

Melt brown sugar and butter over medium heat until mixture is bubbly, 3 to 5 minutes. While whisking, slowly add 1/2 cup whipping cream. Remove from heat and add vanilla and bourbon.

Combine remaining 1 cup whipping cream and half-n-half and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Beat egg yolks. Whisk 1/2 cup of warm cream into yolks, then pour back into pan with cream. Stir constantly over low heat until mixture is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Pour through fine mesh strainer then whisk in butterscotch mixture. Chill and freeze. Maybe add something in for texture: chocolate chunks, broken up bits of brittle, some toasted slivers of almonds.

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Mmmmmmmmm. So good.

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8 comments to Spring & Scotch

  • Muzhik

    yummmmmmm…..

    I made a Twinkie cake for my daughter’s birthday. The sponge cake was passable (barely) but I nailed the creme filling frosting. The key was using marshmallow creme for a base.

  • War Pig

    Excellent all around. Glad you included a link for the smoked brown sugar. Never tried it that I know of, but I have eaten many smoky flavored foods so I may have had it and not known. I’m gonna use it in my own BBQ sauce and see what it tastes like.

    I had smoked honey (at least that’s what they called it) once in Thailand. I have made it myself using liquid smoke in honey. I have no idea how they made it. You have to play with it to get it right but the rewards are awesome. You don’t need much liquid smoke.

    Chocolate in balsamic is a good idea. Vodka is good with rhubarb. Ever think of using the rhubarb sauce in the stabilized whipped cream, maybe with strawberries? Strawberries and rhubarb are an old combination. Makes great pie, anyway. Or make a strawberry daiquiri and add a dash of the rhubarb sauce. That would be interesting. Too early here for rhubarb yet as it has been a cold spring overall. I grow some and use it in pies or eat it raw in salads, smoothies and such. Good source of vitamin C and a superb source of vitamin K, manganese, calcium and potassium, but you have to avoid the leaves as they are not good for you. Rhubarb and ginger are a good pair, as well. Rhubarb-ginger ice cream is great, as made by my cousin Bev.

  • Rhubarb is just about ready to harvest at the farmstead–once we beat a path to it through all the tall grass. Growing up, we made maple syrup once and evaporated it over an open fire. It was really wood-smoky tasting, which I loved. Not something I’d want every time I want maple syrup, but a treat nonetheless.

    In the last recipe segment (wow–smoked butterscotch!), ingredient should probably read “egg yolks” rather than “rolls.” :)

  • Between WP’s method and the method from your childhood, dear Rebecca, I’m seriously curious about smoking my own sugar. Even with an employee discount, that’s a specialty item that’s only for very special culinary ventures.

    I’m planning on making a rhubarb and strawberry crostata late afternoon (or early afternoon as the case may be . . . looks like I’m stuck at work for a while). M & I are crazy about rhubarb, so I’m hoping to find an abundant source that’s not a supermarket.

    Egg rolls and butterscotch ice cream do not mix; thanks!

  • War Pig

    Rhubarb ripening now as it has warmed a little. Had some raw. Just peeled it and ate it with salt. Pretty good.Plan to make pie with it as soon as strawberries come in.

  • Salt on rhubarb? Whew. You may have a hardier stomach than I. The crostata was beautiful, from this recipe: http://www.lottieanddoof.com/2011/06/rhubarb-and-raspberry-crostata/ Mine looked more rustic. If I remembered to take pics before half of it was gone, I’ll post ‘em later.

  • You totally have me drooling now.

    I was pleased to see rhubarb in stores, but then didn’t get to it before it started getting limp, so I made freezer jam. Yum!

  • War Pig

    @Christopher:

    Rhubarb and/or strawberries make superb freezer jam. I use some of my leftovers from making strawberry and rhubarb pies to make a little. I mix the rest of the rhubarb with strawberry juices and dry/dehydrate it, making strawberry-rhubarb “candy” which keeps a long time (especially in vacuum mason jars using a food-saver or like product). Rehydrated it can be made into pies or crumbles or cobblers or boy-bait, or simply eaten as a great vitamin C supplement through the winter.

    @Matthew:

    It never bothered me, even as a kid. The salt (quite a bit) seems to take care of the acidic tartness of the rhubarb. Then again, my ancestors (mom’s side) used to eat rhubarb in spring to help them overcome vitamin C deficiency leftover from winter after the plant was introduced to them about the time of the Civil War. Sugar being expensive for Natives, they simply peeled and salted it and ate it. Yeah, it’s tart, but not as bad as less-than-fully-ripened persimmon or green grapes, in my opinion. My grandparents on dad’s side used to give us tender young rhubarb stalks rolled in sugar as a treat/snack.