Saturday, March 31, 2012

Key-Lime Pie with White-Chocolate-Coconut-Rum Cream and Macadamia-Lime Pralines

The Setting: Still dark out...I snuck out of bed to squeeze in some tea and typing before the little one rouses.

The Soundtrack: Nothing, technically, because I am trying not to wake the baby or the Hoosband, but I've got salsa music stuck in my head right now. The craving for Latin food is imminent.

Steaming up the Kitchen: Hot tea now...but for breakfast...maybe waffles?

The Scenario: It's on every menu in every restaurant in just about all of my favorite destinations. It's tropical, tart, sunny, bright and sweet. It's that perfect, creamy bite of Florida when I'm 1100 miles away. It's (I just realized I am starting to sound like a Kenny Chesney song, but that's more or less appropriate) key-lime pie.

I've been ordering key lime pie at restaurants since I was old enough to use a fork, but only last year did I actually make one for myself.

I think I may have tried once or twice (sans recipe) when I was scarcely tall enough to turn on the oven, but the resulting soupy messes were enough to scare me off for far too long.

Little did I know, key-lime pie is one of the easiest pies you can make from scratch. The filling needs nothing more than limes (key-limes if you're a stickler), egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk (okay, so not completely from scratch...but SCM is one shortcut I will take any day); the cooking time is minimal; and the recipe (unless unnecessarily fooled with) is foolproof.

The recipe for my first homemade key-lime pie came from Cook's Illustrated, which, as I've said before, is a can't-be-beat source for tried and tested (and tested and tested) recipes.

The one I'll share today is solidly based on the CI version, with a couple minor tweaks and a few major twists.

I hope it will transport you to the Keys, or to the sunny destination of your dreams. Who knows? Maybe I'll see you there!

Key-Lime Pie with White-Chocolate-Coconut-Rum Cream and Macadamia-Lime Pralines
Initially the macadamia nuts were supposed to go in the crust. All week long I kept telling Hoosband, "Stop eating the macadamias! They're going in my pie!" And then I left them out. But the pralines make a pretty nice garnish, don't you think? Oh yeah... I should probably mention that real key-lime pies should be made with real key limes (but I used big fat Persian ones, and they're really just as good). Also, while the filling and toppings would still be tasty in a store-bought crust or a crust made with store-bought grahams, the homemade graham crackers send this pie over the top!

~For the White-Chocolate-Coconut-Rum Cream~
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz white chocolate chips
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp coconut rum (I used Malibu)

~For the Filling~
1 (very tightly packed) tsp very finely minced fresh lime zest (avoid the white pith; took me 2 large limes)
4 large egg yolks
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (took me 2 1/2 large limes)

~For the Crust~
2 cups Homemade Graham Cracker crumbs
2 T butter, melted
2 T dark brown sugar

~For the Pralines~
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 T butter
2 tsp water
2/3 cup roasted, salted macadamia nuts
1 lime (for zesting)

Make the white-chocolate cream: Place the cream in a medium-sized microwave safe bowl, and microwave for 1 min, 10 seconds. Add the white chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and rum. Allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate till ready to whip.

Make the filling: Make sure the lime zest is very finely chopped.

Beat the zest and the egg yolks together with a whisk till light and frothy. Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk and then the lime juice. Set aside to thicken while you make the crust.

Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together all crust ingredients with a fork until uniformly wetted and sandy-looking. Press into a 9-inch pie pan. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Cool. Leave oven on.

Once the crust is cool, pour in the prepared filling, and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Place on a cooling rack and cool completely before placing in the fridge to set for at least 3 hours.

Meanwhile, make the pralines: Line a small baking dish or a space on your counter with parchment paper. Place the butter, water, and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, watching carefully to avoid burning. Stir in nuts, remove from heat, and spread mixture in an even layer over the parchment.

Zest a lime evenly over the top of the praline (avoiding the white pith) and allow to cool. Gently break into pieces and place in an airtight container at room temperature till ready to use.

Finish the Pie: Transfer the white-chocolate cream to a med-large bowl and whip just until it can hold a firm peak. Transfer the cream to a pastry bag.

Pipe the cream onto the pie in a way that is pleasing to you, and garnish with the pralines.

Pop on your shades, kick back, and listen for the sound of the ocean.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Greek Yogurt Pancakes with Homemade Peach Preserves

The Setting: Blue skies, warm sun, and a cleaner-than-usual apartment.

The Soundtrack: Excited chatter and squeals from the neighborhood children enjoying the amazing weather outdoors.

Steaming up the Oven: Nothing. But I've got a fridge full of Chinese food!

The Scenario: Pancakes are one of our weekend go-tos in casa de Crumm. We've had a pretty solid recipe for a few years now, but we recently came up with a little deviation we like even better.

Buttermilk is one of those things I always need and never have. I keep telling myself to add dried buttermilk to the grocery list so it'll be in the pantry when the whim to whip up waffles or pancakes or biscuits strikes, but I always forget.

We typically sour a little skim milk ('cause that's what we have) with lemon juice or vinegar, and it does the job alright.

But a while back, I fiddled with our recipe and threw in some Greek yogurt that was rapidly approaching its use-by date instead.

I thinned the yogurt a bit with milk but left the batter a little on the thick side.

The results were fluffy and delicious pancakes that have commanded several repeat appearances.

Excellent with blueberries, with chocolate chips, or plain, my favorite variation to date is a short stack topped with homemade peach preserves, a pat of real butter, and a drizzle of pure maple syrup.

Greek Yogurt Pancakes
With the butter and the sugar in this recipe, I stay a little closer to 1-T each when I am trying to be healthier, and a little closer to 2-T each when I feel like loosening the reins a little. It's a shrug of a difference.

1-2 T butter, plus a little for the griddle
1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1-2 T brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
7 oz Greek yogurt (I use Fage 2% or 0%)
1 cup skim milk
1 large egg

Melt 1-2 T butter in a small, microwave-safe cup. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, salt, soda, and powder. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, milk, and egg. 

Pour the yogurt mixture into the dry ingredients and combine just to wet all the dry ingredients but not mixing until smooth. Pour the melted butter over the top of the mixture, and stir in with 1-2 rotations, being careful not to over-mix. Let mixture rest while griddle heats.

Lightly butter the griddle and heat to 375 degrees F or med-high heat.

Pour batter onto griddle in desired amounts, and use a spoon or spatula to gently spread the thick batter into a pancake shape.

When bubbles pop up all over the surface, flip the pancake, and cook till golden and cooked through, about 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter.

Pancakes that are waiting to be served can be kept warm on a baking sheet in a 200-degree oven. Pancakes to be stored for later can be cooled on a cooling rack.

Serve with Homemade Peach Preserves, real butter (preferably salted), and pure maple syrup.

Leftover pancakes can be stored in a zip-top plastic bag in the fridge for up to one week or individually wrapped in plastic wrap and foil and frozen for up to one month.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Maple Sugar Time

The Setting: It...Is...In...The...EIGHTIES (Hoosband thought I should clarify that I mean temperature and not timeframe...though that would certainly be interesting)!

The Soundtrack: Birds chirping, laundry tumbling.

Steaming up the Oven: Banana-Nut Muffin Balls...and no, they will not be placed atop lollipop sticks and coated in chocolate later...not that there's anything wrong with that.

The Scenario: Before moving to Indiana, when I thought about maple syrup, I simply thought Vermont, but it turns out my new state knows a thing or two about syrup-making as well.

Two Saturdays ago (when shorts and flipflops remained things of fantasy) Hoosband and I drove to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for Maple Sugar Time, an annual event celebrating the sap harvest and looking back at maple sugar through the ages.

Maple sugar has been a product of North America since the time of the Native Americans, who harvested the sap not for what it could add to their pancakes, but as an important source of calories in its own right when other foods were scarce.

Since sticky, liquid syrup was challenging to contain and transfer, the Native Americans boiled the syrup down to sugar cakes that were easy to store in boxes and trade for other valuable items.

North American sugar-maple sap is sweeter than the sap found in the maples that thrive on other continents, making maple syrup an almost-exclusively North Amerciann treasure.

The sap is at its sweetest in late winter, when it can lazily pool in the trees' roots, before the trees' buds bloom.

It may not be the most enjoyable time for the maple harvesters to be at work in the forest, but it is worth it, since sap collected later in the spring, when it is hard at work flowing through the trees to nourish their branches, will be much more bitter.

Here at the Chellberg farm (now part of the national park), maple sap has been harvested and converted to syrup in the sugar shack since the 1930s, when the Chellberg's turned to their maple grove to make a living during the Great Depression.

The methods are the same now as they were back then.

Galvanized steel compartments were replaced with stainless steel for health reasons, but the basic set-up remains in place.

Contrary to what one might expect, the lighter the maple syrup the higher the price. These highest-quality, Grade A syrups are mostly sold to food manufacturers and candy-makers.

We got to do a little taste-test with the darker, cheaper, more flavorful, Grade B stuff and conventional pancake syrup (the latter of which typically contains little-to-no actual maple component).

Everyone in the group could tell which was which, but preferences were divided. Hoosband, loyal Log Cabin-er that he is, preferred the assertive flavor and almost aggressive sweetness of the fake stuff (high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colorings, flavorings, and a host of multi-syllable ingredients), while I would choose the sweet and subtle complexity of the real thing every time (even if it weren't the "natural" choice).

Conduct a little taste-yest for yourself with some of the following recipes:

Multi-Grain Pancakes for One

Whole Wheat Crepes


Morgan's Country Cornbread

Buttermilk Biscuits

Homemade Maple Brown Sugar Marshmallows

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your Life.

Monday, March 19, 2012


The Setting: Chirping birds, gentle's not an's spring!

The Soundtrack: The sounds of spring.

On the Stove-top: Spaghetti. 

The Scenario: Instead of the eight-hour trip back home to Nashville (our default) or the even longer drive up the Northeastern Coast (which was our original plan), Hoosband and I decided to spend his spring break from his master’s program checking out more of the local scenery.

Having visited the maple sugar farm in Indiana Dunes and the Amish country in Shipshewana over the weekend, we got up early on Tuesday to catch the train to Chicago…and watched it pull away right as we parked the car at the station.
Seems one of us (uh-hem, Weefay) was a little confused about the departure time.

Rather than concede defeat for the day, we hopped back in the sedan and set out for coastal Michigan.
We rolled into Holland, on coast of Lake Macatawa, just off the coast of Lake Michigan, around 10:30 a.m., in need of some coffee and a midmorning snack.

A latte, a cappuccino, and a shared everything bagel with hummus were in store for us at The Good Earth Café, where we plotted our next steps.
Strolling around downtown, we happened upon Fustini’s Oils and Vinegars, a Traverse City-based shop featuring--you guessed it—fine vinegars and oils.

We sampled flavored olive oils, single-variety extra-virgins, and specialty oils like walnut and toasted sesame (my favorites) before leaving with a bottle of white balsamic vinegar and making a mental note to come back soon.

We lingered over lunch at the highly enjoyable New Holland Brewing Co. as long as the baby would let us—appetizer, salads, and drinks, but no dessert. Check out Bifecta Finds for more on this must-try restaurant and brewery.
Adequately stuffed, we took a final stroll through town before jumping back in the car to go explore the coast.

At Holland State Park we walked along the pier, shot pictures of the Big Red Lighthouse, and admired the expansive beach before calling it a day and heading back to the Bend.

Stay tuned for fun with my Fustini’s find and more on the making of maple syrup!

Thanks for reading! Here’s to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Banoffee Pie-- And a Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The Setting: Blue skies, windows open.

The Soundtrack: Birds chirping outside, laundry turning in here.

On the Stove-top: Spaghetti Sauce and Chicken Stock.

The Scenario: A sweet treat for St. Patrick's Day.

I had never heard of the greatness that is Banoffee Pie until 2003, when Juliet offered a slice to Mark in exchange for wedding footage that wasn't "all blue and wibbly" in Love Actually.

Every time I'd watch the movie after that (a pretty regular occurrence because I own the DVD, and I have an extremely addictive personality), I'd wonder about this strange-sounding delicacy.

What kind of pie could this be?

Savory or sweet?

If it is a banana-toffee pie, as the name suggests, why on earth have I never been blessed with a slice?

Deep thoughts, all.

It wasn't until September 2010, when I visited Ireland, that I lost my banoffee-virginity, but man, was it worth the wait.

A crumbly "biscuit-crumb" crust, fresh, sliced bananas, creamy "toffee" (dulce de leche) filling, lightly sweetened whipped cream, and chocolate shavings combined to form pie nirvana.

Now, I know that banoffee pie is technically English, not Irish, and that the original recipe features a pastry crust rather than crumb, but to me it will always be Irish, and the crust will always be golden and crumbly, as it was for my first time.

Banoffee Pie
I like to add a little whiskey to the whipped cream to turn the Irish up, especially for St. Patrick's Day.

2 cups Homemade Graham Cracker crumbs*
2 T butter, melted
2 T brown sugar
2 large bananas
1 recipe Slow-Cooker Dulce de Leche
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 T powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp Irish whiskey (optional)
1 square semisweet baking chocolate, for shaving

*To make the graham cracker crumbs, process graham crackers in a food processor or place them in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin till you have fine crumbs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Stir together the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and brown sugar with a fork until well-mixed.

Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan, and bake at 350 for 8 minutes.

Cool completely.

Thinly slice bananas and arrange evenly in the bottom of the pie crust.

Spread the dulce de leche evenly over the bananas.

Cover with foil and freeze at least one hour or until ready to serve, up to 3 weeks. Remove from freezer 15 minutes before serving.

Before serving, whip the cream with the powdered sugar, vanilla, and whiskey just until it holds stiff peaks.

Spread evenly over the pie.

Shave chocolate over the top, as desired (I use a vegetable peeler for this).

Read about my Irish Adventures:

Driving on the Other Side of the Road, Part I.

Driving on the Other Side of the Road, Part II.

Driving on the Other Side of the Road, Part III.

Driving on the Other Side of the Road, Part IV.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Irish Nachos

The Setting: Evening rain showers.

The Soundtrack: House Hunters International.

On the Stove-top: Pork Schnitzel and Parmesan-Buttered Whole Wheat Spaetzle.

The Scenario: Getting into the spirit of St. Patrick's Day!

Here in South Bend, home of the Fighting Irish, you'll see a lot of "Irish Nachos" in the appetizer sections of local restaurants's menus.

Sometimes featuring potato chips and sometimes featuring fries, the "Irish" in Irish nachos refers to a potato-based stand-in for tortilla chips in a mound of nachos with the traditional toppings.

To celebrate St. Patrick's Day, I thought it would be fun to amp up the Irish just a bit, replacing the standard nacho mix with aged Irish cheddar, lamb sausage from a local Irish pub, and a zesty, vibrant green sauce.

Irish Nachos
1 (22 oz) bag frozen waffle fries
8 oz lamb sausage
salt and pepper
6 oz sharp Irish cheddar, shredded
1 cup (very loosely packed) fresh cilantro
1 cup (very loosely packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapenos
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 dgrees F. Empty the waffle fries onto a baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.

While fries are in the oven, crumble and brown the sausage. Drain and set aside.

Puree cilantro, parsley, garlic, jalapenos, and olive oil with an immersion blender or small food processor. Set aside.

Take fries out of the oven and season with salt and pepper. Leave the oven on. Place 1/3 of the fries in a small casserole dish.

Cover with 1/3 of the cheese and 1/3 of the lamb sausage. Repeat layers twice with remaining fries, cheese, and sausage.

Place the casserole in the oven for 5 minutes to melt the cheese and crisp the fries.

Drizzle the jalapeno sauce over the fries, and dig in!

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

Brown Bread Ice-Cream

The Setting: Gorgeous day. Feels like spring! Perfect ice-cream weather.

The Soundtrack: Holmes on Homes.

Steaming up the Oven: Leftover pancakes.

The Scenario: The St. Patrick's Day dessert you never saw coming.

There's a lot of talk in the states about the food of the British Isles being sub-par. I was told not to get too excited about the food in Ireland, warned that Guinness is served warm and flat, and informed that dishes tend to be bland and monochromatic.

In my experience, none of this is remotely accurate.

Guinness is far better in the land of its birth, and the food is bright and beautiful.

In fact, every moment of my trip to Ireland (September, 2010) was spectacular, particularly the ones spent eating.

My expectations were exceeded with every meal, but my mind was truly blown after dinner at the incredible Ballyvolane House, when brown bread ice-cream came out for dessert.

Though I had been devouring brown bread ravenously throughout the trip, I never would have considered it could be transformed into an even more delicious masterpiece of culinary triumph.

Make this surprising dessert for St. Patrick's Day or any time you want to escape to Ireland.

Brown Bread Ice-Cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/8 tsp fine salt
5 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp spiced rum (or Irish Whiskey)
4 oz crumbled Dirty Blonde Brown Bread
4 oz dark brown sugar

Thoroughly whisk together sugar, milk, cream, salt, and egg yolks. Place over medium heat and continue to whisk gently until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla and rum or whiskey. Strain the mixture over a fine mesh sieve into a new container, preferably a metal bowl.

Place in in ice bath to cool before transferring to the fridge to chill overnight.

Place ice-cream mixture in an ice-cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

Meanwhile, place crumbled bread and brown sugar in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and stir with a silicone spatula to combine evenly.

Cook just until the brown sugar is completely melted and all the crumbs are evenly caramelized.

Spread the crumbs out onto a piece of parchment paper and let cool completely.

Fold the caramelized crumbs into the soft ice-cream, and transfer to a freezer-safe container to freeze completely in the freezer.

Makes about 1 quart ice-cream.

Read about my Irish Adventures:

Driving on the Other Side of the Road, Part I.

Driving on the Other Side of the Road, Part II.

Driving on the Other Side of the Road, Part III.

Driving on the Other Side of the Road, Part IV.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.