When you strike out on your own to start a food company, you do so with some guiding principles. For your typical small batch ice cream maker, that often means buying premium dairy, making denser (but costlier) ice cream and—one that usually makes its way onto labels for all consumers to see—not using any ice cream stabilizers. This can be a huge mistake. Here's why.
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It's a step in every egg-based ice cream recipe: "chill base overnight and churn the next day." But if you're pressed for time and want to churn your ice cream the same day you make your base, do you really need to age it overnight, or just chill it down until it's cold enough to churn?*
As far as desserts go, ice cream's incredibly easy to make. To prove it, I've laid out what I think is the easiest way to make vanilla ice cream* at home, step by step, ingredient by ingredient. You'll need less than 30 minutes of active prep time, a few hours to an overnight wait, and half an hour of effortless churn time. And that's it: start this recipe in the morning and you can have fresh ice cream for dessert that night.
You've made your perfect flaky pie dough, let it rest, rolled it out, and created the beautiful, crimped crust of your dreams. Your unbaked pie is sitting in the fridge, resting and waiting for the oven to preheat. You've come so far in pursuit of a delicious and beautiful pie, don't forget the most critical aesthetic step in the pie process: applying a fine coat of egg wash or cream to the top before you pop the pie into the oven.
One extra easy way to add a new touch is to serve flavored whipped cream with your pie. In addition to being unexpected—most people don't think to put maple flavored cream on their pecan pie and that's a shame—you don't have to incur the potential trauma of actually removing the pies from the menu. Want some flavor ideas? Come right this way!
Pastry cream is the unsung hero of the dessert world. You may know it best as the filling in your cream puff, the "cream" in a Boston Cream pie, or the "pudding" in banana cream pie. It's especially worshiped by French pastry chefs; I challenge you to order something from a pâtisserie that doesn't contain it. Simply put, pastry cream makes good desserts better with its creamy, oozy richness, by adding flavor and smooth texture to anything it touches.
Macarons are so hot right now, it's easy to see why they've captured the attention of sweet fiends and bakers alike. They have a reputation for being fussy, but while they are not the easiest cookie to make, a few with cracked shells still taste just as good as those that emerge from the oven unscarred.
Crème Brûlée is a dessert that's super old school, and by most estimates it's been pleasing cooks in this manner for over 300 years. It's originally credited to the French, but desserts of a similar format pepper European history, like Crema Cremada (Catalan "burnt cream") being incredibly popular in its namesake region of Spain, and Trinity Cream, which was originally created by a student at Trinity college for the cooks there.
Challah is made from a dough that is enriched with eggs and egg yolks, honey, sugar, and vegetable oil. While it is slightly sweet, and falls on the pastry side of the restaurant kitchen, I don't consider it a dessert. Challah plays well with both sides of the sweet or savory spectrum; it's as great for French toast as it is for turkey sandwiches, and it's the perfect bread to accompany special dinners with the people you love.
The steps for making chocolate mousse seem fairly straightforward, but there are a lot of small details to keep in mind. For mousse perfection, the chocolate must be smooth and completely melted, the egg whites and sugar should be whipped to a medium peak consistency, and, most importantly, care must be taken when folding the meringue and the chocolate together to avoid deflating the mousse.
Brioche is an enriched (meaning it contains butter, eggs, milk, and sugar), yeasted French dough that falls into the category of Viennoiserie, right alongside croissant, danish, and beignet. It's best known as a breakfast dough in America, because its fluffy yet stretchy texture lends so well to treats like sticky buns, yeasted doughnuts, and buns containing chocolate or dried fruit. Personally, I love making loaves of it for sandwiches (it tastes like a more buttery and sweet version of potato bread) and once it has staled a bit, it's perfect for making French toast or bread pudding.
In pastry school, we learned dozens of techniques for making sugar look like all kinds of things: ribbon, balloons, delicate flowers, and even sponges. I love having these skills in my wheelhouse because it's great to be able to jazz up a simple dessert with a little sugar work for special occasions. Of all the sugar techniques I've learned, making spun sugar is my favorite way to add some drama to desserts.
When making a cake, the most challenging step for most is baking. This is because we, as bakers, are able to control all of the elements involved in prepping our pans and mixing our batters, but when it finally comes time to bake, we are somewhat at the mercy of our ovens. Depending on age, make, model, altitude, and wear and tear, ovens are not all created equal, and the resulting hot spots can be a real bummer for bakers when our carefully crafted cakes are unevenly baked and lopsided.
You're making a butter cake from scratch. Your cake pans have been buttered, greased, and set aside. The oven is preheating, and you've nearly finished creaming the butter and sugar. It's almost time to add eggs to the batter (for most traditional butter or oil based cakes, at least), and the recipe is telling you to do it one egg at a time, with ample mixing between additions, using eggs that have been brought to room temperature. You're wondering, "Why all this fuss when adding eggs to cake batter? Why can't I just pull eggs out of the fridge, crack them, and throw them into the mixer?"
Before even beginning to mix a batter, most cake recipes instruct us to prepare our pans for cakes that will come out in one gorgeous piece. There are a variety of methods bakers use to make unmolding pain free, but have you ever looked at a cake recipe and wondered exactly what the author means when he or she instructs you to "grease and flour the pan" or "make parchment rounds"? Are you sure that you're doing it correctly? And why is it that different cake recipes call for different methods?
Every cook should have panna cotta in his or her bag of tricks. It's understated but delightfully creamy, and it looks gorgeous on the plate. It takes only minutes to prep (although the taste and texture suggest much greater effort), and once it has had time to set, panna cotta can be pulled out of the fridge and served instantly, making it the perfect dinner party finish. Best of all, it's completely versatile, pairing well with fruit sauces from any season, as well as chocolate, caramel, and even balsamic vinegar.
French meringue is one of the most simple, yet mysterious elements in the world of pastry. It consists of only four ingredients; egg whites, sugar, acid, and salt. These ingredients alone may seem unremarkable, but when combined together with the most critical element, forceful whipping, they become a marvel of chemistry and confection.
Cobbler is the perfect summer alternative to pie. The dough, unlike pie crust, requires no cut butter, no chilling, no chanting incantations at the door of the oven. It takes just minutes to put together, the dough can made and chilled in advance, and it's ready to eat right out of the oven. In fact, that's the best way to eat it. They're amazing atop a juicy cobbler, or hot out of the oven with a schmeer of salted butter and preserves. Once you're familiar with the technique, check out my grandmother's (Maine approved) blueberry cobbler recipe.