Saturday, April 23, 2011


What this title breaks down into is Dark Chocolate Ice Cream with Farmer Boys and Chili Chocolate Chunks. Whew! That was a mouthful.
We start out with an old Ducth recipe for Boere Jongens. This translates into "Farmer Boys". Yes, another recipe from Grandmother Jeanette's kitchen. The French would call it massicated fruit. As romantic as the French language sounds, that isn't a good example of it. This recipe especially interested me because Grandma's idea of alcohol was to "take a little" by way of 1 Tablespoon at bedtime. And she only did this until an insufferable part of menopause had passed, for Grandma never did 'hit the sauce'.
These babies are raisins boiled to a plump, drained loosely and put into jars, soused in brandy with a cinnamon stick for at least 2-2 1/2 weeks. And it is well worth the wait. Hey, Lekker! Is it ever.


2 lbs. dark raisins
2 cups sugar
Water for soaking and boiling (use same water for both)
One stick cinnamon per jar
750 ml Christian Brothers or E & J Brandy, (or a good quality whiskey)

1. In a collander, wash the raisins thoroughly. Rinse and rinse and rinse, stirring the raisins around with your fingers, until no more flecks show up in the sink. Set aside and let drain.
2. Put raisins into deep, stainless steel pot and cover to 2" above raisins with lukewarm water. Set aside and let soak for several hours (about 4 hours).
3. Add sugar and stir it up.

4. Bring to just below the boiling point, then simmer slowly for 10-15 minutes to plump them up. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm. When ready, drain by 90% and discard water. Put into a very big jar (1 gallon) or a few regular jars 2/3 full and add a stick of cinnamon into each jar. If you use one big jar, use two sticks. Fill jar(s) almost to brim with the brandy. Give it a gentle stir to incorporate all raisins, then cover with airtight lid, or almost airtight.

5. At the very least, these should should be aged in 2 weeks. They are even better at 2 1/2 weeks. Keep in a cool, dark place, but NOT the refrigerator.
Note: You will be using only 2 cups of the raisins in the ice cream. You can use the remainder as is, served up elegantly in crystal stemware with a pretty spoon. Or you can mash it up in a blender and add to cake batter or filling, or cookie dough. If making filled cupcakes, you can fill the plug holes with drained raisins, or mix them up with Bavarian cream and fill in the plug holes. You choose.

HOMEMADE ICE CREAM vs. STORE-BOUGHT: Seaweed and anti-freeze?
I am one of those people who, when asked to come up with flavors for macarons or ice cream, can rattle off several ideas in a mere minute. Some ideas will stick long enough to write them down while others vaporize in a senior moment.
This particular ice cream recipe came to me as I was torturing my dear friend Meesh Buddha over the telephone with food thoughts. When I got to the chili chocolate chunks, she laughed out a somewhat half-meant, "STOP IT!" (You know you want it, Meesh.) What she meant was that it was making her hungry, and she had to wait until her next trip down the mountain summit into the city to buy the good stuff. And, well, why waste time making it when she could simply pop off the lid and dig right in? I can always rely on her for common sense, after all. It seems odd to lump in an artist with common sense. But please to know that she is one hell of an artist with the vision to get things done rather than lollygag into minutae which is only appreciated by the ones who would pick it all apart anyway, unable or unwilling to see the forest for the trees. She even knew the secret to the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and painted the bus. (The secret being that there was no LSD in the Kool-Aid.) And back in those days, many a hippie tried and failed to make an homemade ice cream beyond slop in those wooden churn buckets. Come to think of it, hippies were the only ones I knew who experimented with ice cream,...along with other things.
Today, we have ice cream making machines for the home kitchen and recipes taught by hatted chefs, and great bakers and fabulous food photographers with food blogs, and recipe books authored by all three said types of fun persons to learn from. And I adore them all for different reasons because I am an artist who complicates things. The reasons have to be different, otherwise I would grow bored, move on, and miss out. As Baskin Robbins or Ben & Jerry's can tell you, what makes the ice cream creamy is the high content of butterfat. Who could argue against such a profundity? This is also what makes the ice cream more expensive. You are not going to save money by making your own. And just like any other food, ice cream can only be as good as the ingredients put into it. And yes, it IS a food. For this chocolate ice cream, I insist on using Lindt & Sprungli, Lindt Excellence Bars.

Oh, yeah. I do love Belcolade Bittersweet and Valrhona and Callebaut. Who wouldn't? But Lindt is my favorite chocolate on the whole planet. So there. If you are not yet familiar with chili-infused chocolate, prepare for a delightful surprise. I would describe this as a delicate suggestion of chili that sneaks up on you and bites you just enough to tease you. It is not nearly strong enough to burn or to hurt. Like the feminine perogative, it is only a tease, and the flavor is enough to satisfy our inner bitch.
Pink Elephants coffee Cafe
Makes 1 quart or slightly more

8 oz. dark chocolate (Lindt 85%, or 90%, or both)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 Tbsp. Christian Brothers or E&J Brandy
2 cups Boere Jongens
1/2 cup Lindt Excellence Chili Chocolate, chopped into small chips (optional)

1. Finely chop the 85% or 90% dark chocolate and put into a large bowl, place strainer on top lip of bowl and set aside.
2. In a larger bowl or the sink, make a bain marie (ice bath) to use later. You don't want the ice cubes so big that they tip the bowl on its side and get water in the chocolate. Water will make the chocolate seize, so, NO WATER IN THE CHOCOLATE.
3. In a medium saucepan with a heavy (thick) bottom, warm the whole milk, sugar and the pinch of salt.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks.
5. When the milk mixture is warm, SLOWLY pour almost half of it over the egg yolks, whisking constantly to warm them without cheesing them up. With a heatproof spatula, scrape this mixture back into the pan of remaining milk mixture and cook GENTLY, stirring constantly until the custard becomes thick and coats the back of the spatula (about 6 minutes).
6. Remove from heat and immediately pour through strainer over the chopped chocolate and quickly stir the custard pressing it through the strainer, and then stir the mixture with the chocolate until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Discard the lumpy custard residue that's in the strainer, rinsing it off immediately with hot water, not letting it harden in the wire mesh. Immerse into hot, soapy water to clean. I can't stress that enough.
7. Whisk the heavy cream and the brandy into the mixture. Place the bowl on top of the ice water bath and, holding the bowl safely upright with one hand, stir until cooled (10 min.).
8. Pour into an airtight container and chill in refrigerator 8 hours, or overnight.
9. Remove from fridge and, if the custard is too thick to pour, just whisk it until it is smooth again and proceed.
10. If using, chop the chili chocolate pieces very small and set aside.
11. Freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instruction, about 23 minutes. Pour into large bowl and stir in the chili chocolate pieces and the 2 cups brandied raisins. (It is tempting to use more chocolate chips, but this ice cream really hardens and more chocolate would make it difficult to scoop neatly into a nice, round shape, and the flavor would be too rich. We are aiming for nuances of flavor and texture.)
12. Pour the mixture into a plastic, airtight container and put into the freezer for 8 hours or overnight.
13. Let sit at room temperature for a little over 5 minutes to soften before you scoop and serve.
Note: I've never managed to hang onto them long enough to know for sure, but the raisins should keep in a cool, dry cupboard for about three months in airtight glass jars.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Butter-Cinnamon Cookies, 2 Ways

Fingered Faeries....

Two Ways. And I don't mean an evening with Bill Maher,...the l'il dickens. Nosiree, this is with REAL ladies.

Forked Fatties.......

Life is full of hassles. And there are times when having to choose between two of anything is simply more than we can bare. Yes, I spelled that right. If it's something more than we can BEAR, then we buy both pairs of shoes.
Darling televangelist Joyce Meyer wrote a book "Eat The Cookie, Buy The Shoes". Oh, I quite agree.
But that one kid I'd like to thump like a red-headed step-child was always singin' 'bout how he wished he were an Oscar Mayer wiener. Weenie Boy! Yeah, that's him.

Choices,folks. We carry some strange baggage away with us from childhood. There was Grandma with a tin ear, singing her heart out in church about Bringing In The Jeeves. It scared the hell outta me. That wasn't singing. That was catterwailing ! Good God, whoever told that woman she could sing? ... Bless her heart.
Our childhoods were rife with Grimm's fairy tales, and very dark nursery rhymes about some little priss on her tuffet alongside the duffet of an impudent spider, and a mean old witch, deep in the woods, putting brother and sister up with lock and key for to eat them later, and some impoverished brood mare who didn't have the sense to choose a decent shoe to live in. Oh yeah, and Scotland's Burning. (What was THAT all about, anyway?) It's a wonder that we grow up able to make choices without fear of the Boogie Man slapping us around while The Powerful One watches over us and does nothing about it. ...
I was a serious child who found it difficult to believe in anyone. After the big fat lie we all know as Santa Claus, I became an unforgiving, unrelenting little bitch who vowed revenge on any and all who would treat her like such an idiot. I sat on Santa's knee for a photo op at a ritzy corner store, pulled off his beard and gave him the stink eye. And I still have photos from that, somewhere in the house. ... Mother left them to me.
Hand-squished to mix thoroughly.

So, who's it gonna be,...Santa Claus or Weenie Boy? More choices. Those two need to get gone. See, there's a lot in life that They Who Say just don't get. Here's a tip from your Uncle Erle: It is probably for your own good.
Don't'cha hate it when they say that?..They who say. Here we go again. (See last month's posting with they who say; faggela cupcakes dressed up in their big girl panties and their Dixieland hats, rolling their eyeballs in boredom's dismay... And Irv changed into Erle. These guys don't mess around!...Fucking cupcakes.)
Yep, we get there....
Senility will come as a blessing. Because I can't seem to forget that one pert piece of schooled programming so eloquently hammered into my brain. And that is, that, life is a trick question with multiple choices, but you are only allowed to choose ONE. Anything else is an incorrect answer to all of life's problems. And once you kick that puppy, your mother will cause Hell to freeze over to convince you that no matter what choice you make, it will be incorrect. And why? Because she said so, that's why.
My, how they simplify these things.

Sundays after church at Grandma's house were anything but simple. In they would twaddle, the same six Dutch guests who seemed to find it painful to speak in front of a child. So they spoke Dutch like a throat disease because they thought I couldn't understand it. I couldn't, really, but I was good at pretending I did; tight-lipped with eyebrows raised. I had two choices: act like a lady, or be a punk and get their stern eyebrow with the flared nostrils, and the dry cough from choking on the jelly roll. Never a smile from Lodi. I never liked that old, spotted man because he dared to sit in Grandpa's chair and smoked cigars. Old Sputum Chaw-Chaw...I feel a nursery rhyme coming on....

The women wore the same sensible shoes, Sunday after Sunday, and those shoes always looked brand new. Tall and taller, they grouped and straggled in, wearing smooth, white gloves and hats with netting to hide their sunken eyes, and perfectly pressed dresses of Sunday finery. Even us little kids had to wear Sunday finery. It was an act of respect, you see. They wore rouge like clowns with rosacea and thin lips grimaced with the teensy application of Old Lady Red. And oh how they would gossip and sniggle and poot. You could tell. They would raise an eyebrow, purse the woodpecker lips and nod in knowing with those wide, freckled eyeballs to feign disapproval of that shameless hussy next door...Oh, yeah, right. As if some young, flat-footed floosie with a floy-floy was hot to trot for Old Sputum Chaw-Chaw. Oohh, Baby! Just hack up that loughie and chew on it awhile. 'Cuz, Honey, it makes me WET. Come on over here and let me count those polka dots. ....

Adapted from Grandmother Jeanette's ancient recipe for butter cookies.
note: I have yet to see this recipe anywhere else. Only three ingredients. Then I added the cinnamon to see if they would taste like cinnamon/sugar toast. Oh yeah!
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened just enough to beat
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup slivered almonds
Powdered sugar, for dusting Fingers

1. Take butter from fridge, unwrap and empty into bowl of stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Let soften at room temperature for 1 or 2 hours. It should only be soft enough to be beaten with the paddle.
2. On medium-low speed, beat the butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy up to medium speed, about 2-3 min., scraping bowl to incorporate all. Set aside.
3. In separate bowl, measure out flour and ground cinnamon and stir to combine well. Add this mixture to butter/sugar mixture in two increments on lowest speed. Mix ONLY UNTIL CRUMBLY, having scraped down the sides of bowl to mix all.
4. Remove bowl. With hands, mix the dough by squeezing together until dough forms a ball and bowl is clean. Squeeze just a little more for good measure. If your hands run hot, or the butter was too soft, or you over mixed with the paddle to past the crumbly stage, place bowl with dough in the refrigerator to firm for 1/2 hour. You will be rolling the dough into tight little balls for Fatties, and rolling out the dough to use a cookie cutter or a knife to make "fingers" for Faeries.
5. Preheat oven to 350F. Line four or five baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Take one third of the dough and make small, tight balls the size of small walnuts, placing them 2" apart on lined baking sheets. Dip fork lightly into small plate of flour and, only once per cookie, press each cookie to sort of flatten. The sides will be fatter and slightly higher than centers, about 1/4". Take one third, each, of remaining cookie dough and form into disks. Between 2 sheets of lightly-floured wax paper, roll out to 1/8"-1/4" thick. Remove top piece of wax paper and using cookie cutter or small sharp knife, cut out oval-ended ladyfinger shapes (I made mine 4 1/2" long by 1 1/4" wide using a cookie cutter), and using a bent metal spatula, gently place on lined baking sheets about 1" or more apart, long ways, 3-4 cookies across. Sprinkle with slivered almonds.
7. Bake for 10-15 min., depending on your oven. Know your oven! If it is fan-forced like my Gaggenau, 10-11 min. is just right. You are looking for light golden brown. LIGHT, but golden. At "golden" the flavor sings!
8. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 min. Remove Fatties to racks, but leave fingers on sheets. When fingers are completely cool, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar using a sieve and small spoon, or a sifter. The more the merrier for it is sheer bliss that melts in a bite like sweet air.