S’mores Baked Alaska

S’mores Baked Alaska is a recreation of a delicious dessert we have had several times at Waypoint Public in North Park. A meringue top is toasted, like a perfect campfire marshmallow, covering a scoop of chocolate ice cream and a crunchy graham cracker crust.

S'mores Baked Alaska recipe

This recipe was also the perfect excuse to try out the blowtorch Papa Bird gave me for Christmas. Being a food blogger, cooking gadgets are always a good call for gifts. As usual, Little Bird helped out on every step, except maybe the blowtorching. The recipe is actually pretty easy. The crust is just graham cracker crumbs with melted butter, pressed into pans. You could make crumbs easily with a food processor, but giving a three-year-old license to whack anything is fun. It’s also a good emotional outlet, as I learned during a school social work internship.

I thought about making something more like homemade marshmallows for the top (like this David Liebowitz pie), and thought I had gelatin leftover from the last time I made pumpkin cheesecake with cranberry gelee, but I was out. I might try marshmallow next time, if I’m feeling ambitious, but a simple meringue totally worked. We topped it like the restaurant with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and graham cracker crumbs. Yum!!

S'mores Baked Alaska recipe from Waypoint Public

Our whole family has always enjoyed Waypoint Public. It is one of the few places with an indoor play area. That’s not McDonald’s. But an actual restaurant with tasty food. In fact, their executive chef, Amanda Baumgarten, was a contestant on Top Chef. Tip: They have a back room for private events. We hosted my sister’s baby shower there in December. All of the staff were very accommodating.

S'mores Baked Alaska
 
Author:
Recipe type: Restaurant Recreation
Cuisine: Dessert
Serves: 3 4-inch pies
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
This a recreation of a dessert from Waypoint Public restaurant in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego, CA.
Ingredients
  • 8 graham crackers
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups chocolate ice cream, slightly softened
  • 3 egg whites
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar (optional but helps hold peaks)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • chocolate syrup
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Place 8 graham crackers in a gallon-sized zip-lock bag and seal. Use a rolling pin to crush the crackers until they are broken into uniform crumbs. See video above. (Or pulse in a food processor.) Place ½ cup of graham cracker crumbs in a mixing bowl with the melted butter. (Reserve the rest of the crumbs for decorating.) Stir the crumbs and butter until combined and then press into three four-inch tart pans or ramekins. Put the mini pans on a baking sheet and bake for about 6 minutes. Allow to cool completely, but leave on the baking sheet.
  2. Place a scoop of ice cream in each cooled crust. Leave a rim of crust around the edge uncovered. This will allow the meringue to completely surround the ice cream and make a good seal with the crust. Place the baking sheet and pans in the freezer to chill a bit while you make the meringue.
  3. Separate the eggs and place in a clean bowl of a mixer with the vanilla and cream of tartar. Using a wire whisk attachment, beat until soft peaks form. Slowly sprinkle in the sugar a little at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form.
  4. Pipe or spoon the egg white mixture over the ice cream, making sure you bring it all the way down to the edge of the pie. Using a kitchen blowtorch, carefully toast the outside of the meringue.
  5. Decorate with a little chocolate syrup and graham cracker crumbs and eat right away.
Notes
You can refreeze any leftover pies.

 Continue for step-by-step photos and a video of the blowtorch in action. Continue reading

Red Velvet Cake with No Food Coloring

Happy Valentine’s Day! I shared the other day on my mental health blog about loving one’s self. Here I’d like to share one way to love someone special. Bake a cake! And if you are concerned about not feeding your family artificial dyes and ingredients, here’s one way to have your cake and eat it, too. I have made red velvet cupcakes before using beets to color them. This Valentine’s I tried out a red velvet cake with no food coloring.

red velvet cake with no food coloring

Last week I was helping Little Bird with a science kit, and we were learning about acids, bases, and ph. We experimented with adding acidity (in the form of citric acid and vinegar) and baking soda (with is alkaline) to water colored with red cabbage powder. The acid made it more vibrantly red and the base made it more purple. No wonder red velvet has something acidic like lemon juice and/or vinegar in it! It also made me wonder if too much baking powder was the reason the red velvet potato bundt cake I tried to make came out purple/brown. (I love learning more of the science behind baking.)

red velvet cake with no dye

I consider this more a recipe review than a super polished recipe. But I wanted to share none the less. I have only made it one time, and would tweak it some more to make it a little lighter. I used the suggested cream cheese, but found it way too dense, for my preference. I would replace that with buttermilk, and use more eggs. I reduced the sugar by half, in both the cake and the frosting. Next time I might play around with non-refined sweeteners.

Red Velvet Cake with NO Food Coloring

5.0 from 1 reviews
Red Velvet Cake with No Food Coloring
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
 
This recipe makes a dense red velvet cake, colored by beets and without any food coloring or dye.
Ingredients
  • 2 large beets (enough for 1 cup puree)
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 8 ounce package of cream cheese or 1 cup of buttermilk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons natural raw cocoa powder
  • 2 recipes cream cheese frosting
Instructions
  1. This recipe is adapted slightly from a post from sophistimom. I did not change her method, so follow the link for the instructions. Here are my notes, however:
  2. Starting with raw beets seems more labor intensive, but my past results using packaged, pre-cooked and peeled beets did not work as well.
  3. My Vitamix did not process the beets well, as it wasn't full enough or liquid enough. My old Kitchen Aid food processor worked great, and I wish I would have started with it from the beginning.
  4. I found it too dense and heavy with the cream cheese. I suggest buttermilk, which I will use next time.
  5. I used 4 eggs as called for in the original recipe. Next time I will increase it to 6. My mom suggested separating the eggs, beating them separately to give it more leavening from the egg whites, and then folding them in.
  6. For the frosting, I made a double batch of my Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting, omitting the cinnamon and pumpkin.

Chestnut Tart with Fresh Winter Fruit (GF, Vegan, Low Sugar)

I accepted another cooking challenge from Melissa’s Produce! This box arrived with beautiful winter fruit including Korean pears, mandarin oranges, and red grapes. It also included a package of steamed and peeled chestnuts. I learned making a chestnut bundt cake that prepping chestnuts can be a pain in the butt. But I also learned how delicious chestnut puree can be. I used the same gluten-free cashew/almond crust I made up for a lemon meringue tart (using my meyer lemon curd.) It can be made with butter, but this time I used coconut oil, which inspired me to make the whole tart vegan. Normally I would’ve considered mixing the chestnut puree with some whipped cream, but coconut oil and coconut milk made for a delicious vegan chestnut cream. By sweetening with only a little maple syrup, the whole delicious dessert qualifies as practically health food!

Chestnut Tart with Winter Fruit  (GF/Vegan/Naturally Sweetened)

This post was sponsored by Melissa’s Produce, who supplied the featured ingredients free of charge. Recipe and opinions are my own! The box also included steamed beets, potatoes and a copy of “DYP’s The Perfect Everyday Potato Cookbook.” Among the inspiring recipes was a chocolate potato cake. I experimented with a red velvet potato cake. Unfortunately, it fell far short of being blog worthy. Sometimes I can spin a failure, such as my zucchini bread pudding, but there are also many, many recipes that just don’t make the cut. Being a recipe developer means taking risks. I only share the best of the best recipes — ones I want to make again and hope you might want to try, too.

pressing crust into chestnut tart

Fortunately, this chestnut tart was a keeper! If you, like me, look for opportunities to bring your children into the kitchen, this is also a perfect dessert recipe. This tart crust is simply pressed into the pans. No finicky pastry dough or rolling out. My three-year old enjoyed pressing the dough. She loved decorating the tarts with the fruit, and sampling the fruit as she went along.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chestnut Tart with Fresh Winter Fruit (GF, Vegan, Low Sugar)
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: vegan, gluten-free, naturally sweetened
Serves: 5 4" mini tarts or one 11" tart
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
A gluten free almond and cashew crust holds an irresistible chestnut cream. Topped with fresh seasonal fruit. Using only a little maple syrup to sweeten yields a winter decadence you don't have to feel guilty about.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup cashew meal
  • ¼ tsp salt

  • 6.5 oz peeled, steamed chestnuts
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon organic lemon zest

  • 3 cups fresh fruit, such as mandarins, korean pears, grapes
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350*. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the melted coconut oil, cashew meal, almond meal and salt. Using your hands, press the mixture into one 11 in tart pan or 5 4 in individual tart pans. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Cool completely.
  2. In a food processor, mix chestnuts, coconut milk, coconut oil, maple syrup and lemon zest until very smooth. Add additional milk if necessary.
  3. Spoon the chestnut cream into the cooled tart shells and smooth the top. Decorate with fresh fruit. Can be enjoyed immediately or refridgerated up to 3-4 days.
Notes
I like using a food processor better than a blender. Even though I have a fabulous Vitamix, my old kitchen aid processor does a better job with thick and sticky chestnuts.

See what my fellow San Diego Food Bloggers came up with. Continue reading

Latkes, Lox, Crème Fraîche, and Pickled Sweet Onions

Happy Hanukkah! Hanukkah starts tonight, the evening of December 16th. And no celebration is complete without latkes! Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Whole Foods La Jolla, this year’s latkes are inspired by another Jewish tradition: bagels and lox. Papa Bird’s famous smoked salmon, a shmear of crème fraîche, capers and home-made pickled sweet onions topped our latkes.

latkes and lox

My daughter’s favorite book right now is a silly story about runaway latkes that sing and roll off to see the town. She loved helping put the potatoes, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts and onion into the food processor. She also mixed up the eggs and the batter. Kitchen helpers get the spoils of tasting the first batch, hot in the kitchen!

latkes in the kitchen

Here are some of my top latke making tips:

crispy brown latkes

  • Use a brown paper bag to soak up the extra oil.
  • Peanut oil is great for frying. I used a mix of peanut and Avocado oil.
  • My house usually smells of oil for days after making latkes. This year I closed off the kitchen from the rest of the house, opened the door from the kitchen to the outside, and had the exhaust fan on high. Success!
  • There is no need to make balls or patties. Just plop a spoonful of batter in the pan. The latkes will be lighter, lacier and crisper.

Latkes and Lox Recipes

  1. Brussel Sprouts and Sweet Potato Latkes –I used a mix of Japanese Yams (less sweet than sweet potatoes) and Russet Potato.
  2. Home Smoked Salmon
  3. Quick Pickled Onions –I used a sweet onion.

Set out a spread of the above recipes, along with crème fraîche (a sweeter, thicker and creamier sour cream) and capers. Enjoy!

Latkes and Lox

Many thanks again to Whole Foods La Jolla! They provided me with all of the ingredients, free of charge. (The recipes and opinions are all mine.) Follow them on Twitter at and . (Follow my tweets @BabyBirdsFarm). You can pin this recipe on Pinterest here, and follow my Jewish Food board for more noshing.

Latkes and Lox: Made with Home-smoked salmon, Brussels sprouts and Sweet potato latkes, creme fraiche, pickled onions and capers

Home Smoked Salmon

I’m happy to share one of my husband’s specialties: Smoked Salmon. After we enjoyed my uncle Bobby’s homemade smoked salmon so much, I gave my husband what we call a “Bobby grill” for his birthday. The Bobby grill is actually a Portable Kitchen Cast-Aluminum Grill and Smoker (Amazon link) but in my family, everything gets named and claimed!

how to make smoked salmon at home

This post was sponsored by Whole Foods La Jolla, who generously provided all the ingredients for this Smoked Salmon recipe and the following “latkes and lox.” Papa Bird points out that this recipe makes a “hot-smoked” salmon, even though it uses indirect heat. True lox is made with a cold-smoking process.

smoked salmon on the pk grill

Although I usually seek out wild salmon, I found myself gravitating to the fresher-looking farmed salmon at Whole Foods. The woman at the counter explained that all of the wild salmon was previously frozen, as the Alaskan season has ended. The farmed salmon was fresh and had never been frozen. Usually I avoid farmed salmon as a big “no no,” but again I was educated. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (my go-to source of info) writes: “Most farmed salmon is on the “Avoid” list due to concerns such as the use of antibiotics important to human health and the potential for parasite and disease transfer to wild salmon populations. The Marine Stewardship Council certifies some salmon fisheries as sustainable.” Whole Foods lists which fish meets Marine Stewardship Council criteria. Their salmon farmers use recirculating aquaculture systems, which is a “Best Choice” for consumers. It is also a more affordable choice!

Papa Bird's Home Smoked Salmon
 
Author:
Cuisine: Jewish-American
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Adapted from "How to Grill: The Complete Illustrated Book of Barbecue Techniques, A Barbecue Bible! Cookbook" by Steven Raichlen.
Ingredients
  • 1-2 salmon fillets (2-3 pounds)
  • 1 cup dark, spiced rum
  • 1¼ cup organic brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup honey
Instructions
  1. Remove the skin the salmon and remove any bones. Rinse the salmon in cold water and blot dry. Place the salmon in a baking dish and pour the rum over it, covering completely. Let sit for 30 minutes in the fridge. Then drain the salmon and blot dry.
  2. Mix the brown sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Spread one third of the mixture in a clean baking dish. Lay the salmon on top and sprinkle the rest of the cure on top, patting it into the fish. Let cure in the fridge for 4 hours.
  3. Set up grill for indirect cooking. The coals should be off to one side and the fish will go over to the other side. Place 4 cups of wood chips in a pan of water to presoak. Place a drip pan under where the fish will go, and preheat grill to 325*.
  4. Rinse off the cure off the salmon with cold water and blot dry. Rub honey into the salmon on both sides. Toss 2 cups of wood chips on the coals. Brush and oil the grill grate. Place the salmon on the opposite side as the coals, and over the drip pan. Toss 2 more cups of wood chips on the coals and cover the grill. Smoke the fish until cooked through, about 20 minutes. The fish should feel firm and break into clean flakes.
  5. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve warm, room temperature or cool. Keeps in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Notes
Papa Bird notes that salmon fillets work better than steaks. He prefers thinner fillets over thick, meaty ones. More surface area to come into contact with the cure and the smoke.

Click on any image in this gallery for step by step photos on how to make smoked salmon at home.

Many thanks again to Whole Foods La Jolla! They provided me with all of the ingredients, free of charge. (The recipes and opinions are all mine.) Follow them on Twitter at  and . (Follow my tweets @BabyBirdsFarm). You can pin this recipe on Pinterest here, and follow my Jewish Food board for more noshing.