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Archive for Desserts

TIP OF THE DAY: Treats For Banana Lovers

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Banana Split

Banana Hot Fudge Sundae

Bunch of Bananas

[1] A grilled banana split: no need for a special banana split dish (photo courtesy Pampered Chef). [2] Another presentation from Women’s Day. Here’s their recipe. [3] Fusion food: a grilled banana hot fudge sundae (photo courtesy Weber). [4] The world’s most popular fruit (photo Nathan Ward | SXC)!

 

Who doesn’t love a banana? It’s the world’s most popular fruit. Some 25 pounds of bananas are consumed per capita each year.

In the U.S., more bananas are consumed than oranges and apples combined! And August 27th is National Banana Lovers Day.

Bananas were introduced to the U.S. in 1880. By 1910, bananas were so popular that cities—which then lacked sanitation systems—had a problem disposing of the banana peels.

People were literally slipping on banana peels that were discarded on sidewalks and streets (a reality appropriated by comedians), leading to injuries. The Boy Scout Handbook recommended picking up banana peels from the street as a Scout’s good deed of the day (source).
 
MORE BANANA TRIVIA

  • Man has been growing bananas for some 10,000 years, since the dawn of agriculture. It’s the oldest cultivated fruit.
  • Bananas don’t grow on trees: The banana plant is actually the world’s largest herb. It’s a cousin to ginger and vanilla.
  • There are more than 1,000 varieties of bananas. The majority grow in Africa and Asia: 600 varieties in India alone.
  • The American supermarket banana is a variety called the Cavendish. It’s a more bland banana, but it travels well.
  • Bananas float in water (so do apples)!
  •  
    WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BANANA RECIPE?

    Banana Bread? Banana Cream Pie? Banana Daiquiri? Banana French Toast? Banana Ice Cream? Banana Pudding? Peanut Butter and Bananas?

    We say YES! to all, but today are focusing on two: the kid favorite Banana Split and the over-21 Bananas Foster.
     
    BANANA SPLIT HISTORY

    Two towns in the U.S. lay claim as the home of the banana split.

  • In 1904 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, David Strickler, a 23-year-old druggist’s apprentice at Tassel Pharmacy is said to have created the first banana split sundae for the local college crowd.
  • In 1907 in Wilmington, Ohio, restaurateur Ernest R. Hazard held a dessert contest among his employees at The Café. One came up with a sundae of sliced banana topped with three scoops of ice cream, chocolate syrup, strawberry jam, pineapple bits, chopped nuts, whipped cream and cherries.
  •  
    Fortunately for the rest of us, the concept spread nationwide, affording all of us the joy of a Banana Split.

    RECIPE: GRILLED BANANA SUNDAE

    Banana splits are easy to make: Split a ripe banana vertically, place it in a long dish, top with three scoops of ice cream (traditionally vanilla, chocolate and strawberry) and toppings of choice. (You can get Anchor Hocking banana split dishes for about $2 each.)

    Here’s a twist: a grilled banana sundae, a cross between the classic and Bananas Foster. In the latter, bananas are caramelized in butter with brown sugar and cinnamon, then topped with dark rum and flambéed, with the bananas and the flaming sauce served over vanilla ice cream.

    We’ve included a Bananas Foster recipe below. The recipes are very similar, except that for Bananas Foster, the bananas are sautéed in butter instead of grilled; and alcohol is added to the caramel sauce. The banana is typically sliced in half lengthwise and crosswise.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 firm, ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup fudge sauce
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT a grill pan over medium heat for 5 minutes.

    2. CUT the bananas in half lengthwise and crosswise for a total of 4 pieces each. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in shallow dish. Gently coat the bananas with the sugar mixture.

    3. SPRAY the grill pan lightly with vegetable oil and add the banana pieces, cut sides down. Grill for 2-3 minutes per side or until grill marks appear.

    4. SERVE warm with ice cream, ice cream topping and almonds.
     

     

    RECIPE: BANANAS FOSTER

    The original Bananas Foster recipe was created in 1951 by Paul Blangé (1900 to 1977), the Executive Chef at Brennan’s in New Orleans. The dish of sautéed bananas, flambéed and topped with ice cream, was named in honor of Richard Foster, a regular customer and friend of restaurant owner Owen Brennan Sr.

    Note that while both the recipes above and the original Bananas Foster cut the bananas into oblong pieces (see photo above), we prefer the round slices of banana, about 3/4-inch thick.

    While igniting the dish tableside is dramatic both at a restaurant and at home, it isn’t necessary.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 firm, ripe bananas
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup banana liqueur
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • Optional garnishes: toasted chopped pecans, grated orange zest
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT the bananas in half lengthwise and crosswise for a total of 4 pieces each (alternative: cut 3/4″ rounds; you’ll have more than 4 pieces).

    2. MELT the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves (about 2 minutes—this creates a caramel sauce). Add the bananas and cook on both sides until they begin to soften and brown (about 3 minutes).

    3. ADD the banana liqueur and stir to blend into the caramel sauce. If you want to flambé, follow the instructions below. However, the drama of the flambé works only if the dish is prepared tableside. Otherwise, the drama is lost in the kitchen (the flame extinguishes quickly).

    4. LIFT the bananas carefully from the pan and top the four dishes of ice cream; then spoon the sauce over the ice cream and bananas and serve immediately.
     
    TIPS ON HOW TO FLAMBÉ

  • Liquors and liqueurs that are 80-109 proof are best to ignite. Don’t use a higher proof; it is highly flammable.
  • The liquor must be warmed to 130°F before adding to the pan. Higher temperatures will burn off the alcohol, and it won’t ignite.
  • Always remove the pan from the heat source before adding the liquor to avoid burning yourself.
  • Vigorously shaking the pan usually extinguishes the flame, but keep a pot lid nearby in case you need to smother the flames. The alcohol vapor generally burns off by itself in a matter of seconds.
  •  
    MORE

  • Read these tips
  • Watch this video
  •  

    Bananas Foster

    Bananas Foster

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    [1] Bananas Foster at the Bonefish Grill, looking like a more complex Banana Split. [2] It’s harder to sauté a lengthwise half of banana without breaking it. Hence, the suggestion of slicing lengthwise and crosswise (photo Fotolia). [3] This recipe from Taste Of Home slices the bananas into coin shapes (a.k.a. chunks), easier to salute.

     
    READY FOR A DRINK?

    Relax with a Banana Colada.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Ice Cream & Berries Shortcake

    Ice Cream Shortcake is an easy dessert, simply combining berry ice cream, fresh berries on refrigerator biscuits. It’s easier to put together than an ice cream cake, and even easier than conventional shortcake since you don’t have to whip the cream.

    We adapted this recipe from the Chefs Collaborative Cookbook.

  • If you prefer, you can use only one biscuit half per person; or spread the usually plain top biscuit half with jam.
  • Use whichever berries you prefer, or a mixture of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and/or strawberries.
  •  
    Because today is National Raspberries & Cream Day, we’re making our shortcake with raspberries.
     
    RECIPE: EASY BERRY SHORTCAKE RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • Refrigerator buttermilk biscuits
  • Ice cream of choice (suggested: strawberry, other berry or vanilla)
  • Fresh berries
  • Optional: berry jam or preserves
  • Optional garnish: mint sprig, rosemary sprig, or other decorative herb you have on hand
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BAKE the biscuits and let cool.

    2. SPLIT the biscuits and spread the bottom half with the optional jam. If using the top biscuit half, spread with jam as desired.

    3. TOP with a scoop of ice cream and sprinkle with berries. Place the top biscuit half on the plate (jam side up if using, otherwise top side up) and serve.

    CHEFS COLLABORATIVE COOKBOOK

     

    rhubarb-ice-cream-shortcake-TheChefsCollaborativeCookbook-230

    The-Chefs-Collaborative-Cookbook-230

    How easy is this? Refrigerator biscuits + ice cream + berries = an impressive dessert. Photos courtesy The Chef’s Collaborative.

     
    More than 20 years ago, some of the most revered chefs in the world—including John Ash, Rick Bayless, Susan Feniger, Nobu Matsuhita, Nora Pouillon, Michael Romano and Alice Waters—looked at the way Americans were eating and decided that they had to help change it.

  • They had watched while processed foods replaced fresh food in our supermarkets.
  • They saw family farms disappear and huge agribusiness corporations take over.
  • They worried about obesity in children and adults, and the associated illnesses.
  • And they realized that Americans were losing the joy of cooking and eating fresh food.
  •  
    In 1993, these visionary chefs founded Chefs Collaborative and vowed to use their influence to educate us, the public, about a better way to nourish ourselves that is also better for the planet.

    Their stated goal: Support small farms, healthy food and sustainable agriculture for everyone. They’ve been a significant force in the food revolution that’s improved the way Americans eat.

    Chefs Collaborative members contributed more than 115 recipes to creating a cookbook: recipes that can be made by the home cook.

    Each section (fruits, meats, vegetables, etc.) also provides information about the principles of sustainability around the ingredient, with information provided farmers, artisan producers, breeders, environmentalists, and activists.

    Get your copy of The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook: Local, Sustainable, Delicious Recipes from America’s Great Chefs.

    It’s also a great gift for anyone interested in these issues.

      

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    RECIPE: Raspberry & Cream Croissants

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    Whipped Cream & Berries

    [1] For breakfast, snack or dessert, here’s how to celebrate National Raspberries & Cream Day (photo courtesy TruWip). [2] No time to hand-whip cream? Try Reddi-Wip in Original or Chocolate (photo courtesy Reddi-Wip).

     

    This year for National Raspberries and Cream Day (August 7th), we had Raspberries and Cream Croissants for breakfast.

    You can also enjoy them for a snack or dessert.

    The first time we made this recipe, we used hand-whipped cream; the texture is just perfect for spreading. This morning, hungry for breakfast, we defaulted to our stand-by, Reddi-Wip.

    We had a can of Original Reddi-Wip and a can of Chocolate Reddi-Wip. Take your choice: Both were delish. And we admit to adding some chocolate chips with both.

    The winner, however, was mascarpone and raspberries.

    RECIPE: RASPBERRIES & CREAM CROISSANTS

    Ingredients

  • 4 to 6 fresh croissants
  • 3 cups whipped cream or other topping*
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 1-1/4 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds (substitute pistachios)
  • Optional chocolate chips (ideally mini chips)
  • __________________
    *A can of Reddi-Wip does the job.

     
    Preparation

    1. MIX the TruWhip and almond extract in a large mixing bowl. Gently fold in the raspberry jam until slightly marbled.

    2. SLICE the croissants horizontally and generously spread with the cream. Top with the fresh raspberries and a scattering of slivered almonds and optional chips.

     
    TIP: If the raspberries are too plump such that you can’t easily eat the croissant, first cut them in half.

    We adapted this recipe from TruWhip, a dairy-free whipped topping.
     
    NO FRESH RASPBERRIES?

    Try these variations:

  • For the whipped cream: clotted cream/Devon cream, cream cheese, crème fraîche, mascarpone, sour cream, Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla) (more about these products)
  • For a snack or dessert: vanilla ice cream
  • For the raspberries: a layer of raspberry jam or preserves, frozen raspberries
  •  
    NO CROISSANTS?

    Substitute biscuits or toast. Or top pancakes, French toast or waffles with the raspberries and cream.

    The toppings also work as a cookie spread.
     
    NO RASPBERRY JAM?

    You can fold puréed raspberries into the whipped cream, or just use plain whipped cream.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Build-Your-Own No-Cook Summer Dessert Bowl

    Easy Ricotta Summer Dessert

    Sheep's Milk Ricotta

    Wasa Sesame Sea Salt Thins

    Wasa Thins

    [1] Lay out the ingredients for the easiest DIY dessert. [2] Ricotta salata, made in a mold, is salted. It’s better for a DIY with savory toppings (photos courtesy Good Eggs). [3] and [4] Crunchy Wasa Thins in Sesame & Sea Salt, also available in Sea Salt & Rosemary (photos courtesy Wasa).

     

    You may know ricotta from cannoli and cheesecake. They’re delicious desserts, but require some preparation.

    For summer, there’s another option: The 5 Minute Ricotta Dessert Bowl, as created by Good Eggs, a top-quality online grocer in San Francisco.

    Yes, in just five minutes you can set ingredients on the table, DIY-style, and everyone can have fun (and good nutrition!) customizing their bowls.

  • In addition to dessert, you can set out the spread for breakfast, light lunch or a sophisticated snack.
  • You can make a savory version, for breakfast, light lunch, snack or a first course at dinner.
  •  
    RECIPE: DIY RICOTTA BOWLS

    Ricotta is actually not a cheese but a by-product of cheese-making which uses the whey drained from other cheeses. Whey is the watery part of milk that remains after the formation of the curds. In fact, the name means “re-cooked.” Here’s more ricotta information.

    You can even make your own ricotta at home. Here’a a recipe from Williams-Sonoma.

    Turn it into a build-your-own dessert—no cooking, no heat, cool comfort food.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • Ricotta (the best you can find, 4 ounces per person)
  • Berries or other fruits
  • Nuts and seeds of choice; granola
  • Sweetness: agave or honey for drizzling
  • Optional: crème fraîche, yogurt, sour cream; for dessert, mascarpone
  • Bonus: chocolate chips, candied orange peel, dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, raisins)
  • Crackers: flatbread (we used the new Sesame Sea Salt Thins from WASA), or other cracker of choice.
  •  
    Savory Ingredient Options

    Use the same nuts/seeds, yogurt/sour cream and crackers, plus:

  • Ricotta and/or ricotta salata (photo #2)
  • Carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, green onions, radishes and/or other vegetables of choice, sliced
  • Fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, dill, parsley)
  • Hot sauce
  • Shichimi togarashi or other spice blend
  • More: capers, sliced olives, roasted red peppers, etc.
  •  
    HAVE A RICOTTA TASTING

    Set out different brands, from big commercial brands or the store brand, to freshly-made ricotta from the cheese department.

    Taste each type plain: just a spoonful.

     
    Sheep’s Milk Ricotta

    Good Eggs uses Bellwether Farms Sheep’s Milk Ricotta in this recipe. In Italy, Sheep’s milk ricotta is preferred over any other for its delicate flavor and texture. If you can find it, grab it.
     
    MORE WAYS TO USE RICOTTA

    Use it both sweet and savory dishes, including stuffed pasta (lasagna, manicotti, ravioli, shells, etc.).

  • Ricotta For Breakfast
  • Ricotta For Lunch, Dinner & Dessert
  •   

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    RECIPE: No-Bake Cheesecake In A Jar

    No Bake Cheesecake

    Lemon Curd Tart

    [1] A quick summer cheesecake (photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com). [2] An even easier dessert: Fill tart shells with lemon curd. You can add mascarpone underneath the curd, or as a garnish (photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE).

     

    Want a cheesecake experience without turning on the oven?

    Here’s a recipe we adapted from Eat Wisconsin Cheese, that combines the old and the new.

  • The old: Before the invention of cream cheese in New York State in the late-1800s (see history below), cheesecakes were made of mascarpone, ricotta or other soft cheese, including goat cheese.
  • The new: Over the past decade, Mason jars have gone from uses for canning and packaging for artisan jams to containers for cocktails, desserts, layered salads, and so on.
  •  
    You can also use parfait glasses, wine goblets or anything else you have.

    You can also substitute any flavor of curd for the lemon.
     
    RECIPE: NO BAKE LEMON CHEESECAKE

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 1/2 cup lemon curd (buy it or make it)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup whipping [heavy] cream
  • 1 container (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese
  • 1-1/2 cups (about 28) crisp gingersnap cookies, crushed into crumbs (substitute graham crackers)
  • 1 cup/8 ounces strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
  • Optional garnishes: candied lemon peel (recipe), citrus zest, pomegranate arils, skewered berries and/or mixed color grapes, sliced star fruit
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BEAT the lemon curd and honey in a mixing bowl with electric beaters, until smooth and creamy.

    2. BEAT the cream into curd mixture until smooth. Add the mascarpone and beat just until thickened. Do not overbeat.

    3. ASSEMBLE: Layer the cookie crumbs, lemon mascarpone cream and strawberries in individual parfait glasses. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used.

    4. REFRIGERATE for at least 2 hours, garnish and serve.

     
    THE HISTORY OF MASCARPONE

    Mascarpone, the Italian version of crème fraîche, but thicker and sweeter. It’s hard not to sit down with the entire container and a spoon. (Here’s the difference between mascarpone, crème fraîche, and sour cream).

    It used to be that all mascarpone was imported from Italy. American artisan cheesemakers make an even better product than what gets imported. Our favorite domestic mascarpone brands are Crave Brothers and Bel Gioioso, both in Wisconsin, and Vermont Creamery.

    Mascarpone is often refer to as Italian cream cheese; but please, don’t think of this rich, lush, soft fresh cheese as anything resembling a brick of foil-wrapped soft cheese filled with gum.

    Made from cream, not milk, mascarpone is the richest fresh cheese, ranging in butterfat content from 70% to 75%. It has a subtle natural sweetness, but can be used in savory recipes and toppings as well.

    As points of reference: A French double-crème Brie or Camembert has 60% to 75% butterfat. French triple-crème cheeses must have a butterfat content of 75% or more. Butter has a minimum of 80% fat in the U.S., 82% in France; going up to 86% for premium butters.

    In the U.S., mascarpone is most often associated with desserts, especially the classic tiramisu or as a topping for berries. But it can be used in savory recipes as well—pasta sauce, savory tarts/tartlets, stuffed chicken and tortas, among others.

    The name likely derives from “mascarpia,” the local dialect term for ricotta, because both ricotta and mascarpone are made by very similar processes. Mascarpone could have been a glorious accident in the preparation of ricotta.

    No cheese starter or rennet is used in its production; the moisture is drained from heavy cream using a small amount of citric acid and finely woven cloth. You can make it at home. Here’s a recipe.

     

    PRONOUNCE IT CORRECTLY!

    Mascarpone may have the distinction of being the most misspelled and mispronounced cheese.

    Too many Americans call it “marscapone,” mar-sca-PON-neh, trespassing the consonants. The correct pronunciation is mas-car-POH-neh.

    The cheese is believed to have originated in the Lombardy region of Italy, in the late 1500s or early 1600s. Lombardy, in the northern part of the country (it includes the cities of Brescia, Cremona, Mantova, Milano and Sondrio), has a rich agricultural and dairy heritage.

     
    THE HISTORY OF CREAM CHEESE

    In the 1870s, New York State farmers farmers began to make a soft, unripened cheese modeled after the French Neufchâtel cheese. Within a few decades, a recipe for “cream cheese” appeared, made by mixing cream into the Neufchâtel curd.

    The new soft cheese was molded into small wood block forms. Because the city of Philadelphia had a reputation for fine food, a New York-based manufacturer, Phenix Cheese Company, named its product Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese.

    It was the leading brand then as now. J.L. Kraft and Bros., established in 1909, acquired Phenix Cheese Company in 1930. The company is now called Kraft Foods Group.

     
    WHAT IS CURD?

    Fruit curd is a creamy spread made with sugar, eggs and butter, generally flavored with citrus juice and zest. Lemon curd is the classic variety, but lime curd and blood orange curd can be found, as can other fruit curds such as the strawberry.

    A citrus curd is refreshingly tart, as opposed to more sugary jams and preserves. Unlike lemon custard, for example, lemon curd contains more lemon juice and zest, which gives it a more piquant flavor. The butter creates a smoother and creamier texture than jam.

    Curd also can be used to fill tart shells, and as a garnish. Here’s the comparison of curd to the jelly, jam, marmalade, preserves, etc.

     

    Mascarpone & Fruit

    Mascarpone & Strawberries

    [1] Mascarpone, plain or flavored, can be used as a dip for fruit or cookies. The top bowl is flavored with coffee liqueur, like tiramisu (photo courtesy East Wisconsin Cheese). [2] Mascarpone has many uses. Here it’s an easy topping, piped onto fresh strawberries (photo courtesy Giant Eagle). It’s also delicious with dates.

     

      

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