milk, cream, herbs 'n vanilla...mmmmm

 Hot fun in the summertime turns this kat’s thoughts to cooler sweet indulgences–like gelato. Mint is flourishing on the deck and I wanted to change up last year’s lavender mint ice cream–tastes great, less fattening. 

a cuppa mint

 Not a lavender fan? No worries, leave it out and enjoy a fresh mint gelato. Add shards of chocolate to create a fine mint chocolate chip. The kitchen is your playground, after all! 

LAVENDER MINT GELATO

2 ¼ cups milk (I used 1% Over the Moon, which tastes like whole milk)
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon dried lavender (or 2 tablespoons fresh lavender)
¼ of a vanilla bean, split and scraped (or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract)
5 large egg yolks at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar, divided (1/3 cup for milk mixture; 1/3 cup for egg yolks)
¼ teaspoon coarse salt

Heat milk, cream, mint, lavender, 1/3 cup sugar and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir and watch for small bubbles to form at the edge of the pan. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes. 

Strain liquid using a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the leaves to extract all the liquid. 

In a medium bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugars with a whisk until thick; set aside. 

Combine egg mixture with milk mixture in saucepan. Add salt. Cook over medium-high heat and continue to whisk until mixture reaches 170 degrees F. Do not let it boil! 

Custard is ready to chill.

 Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain into a clean bowl. Refrigerate at least four hours or overnight. 

Just before turning the chilled custard into your ice cream maker, place the custard and the dasher from your machine into the freezer for up to 10 minutes. And now, it’s time to go for a spin: process according to your ice cream machine’s directions. 

Lavender Mint Gelato

Wanna lick?

I’ll get back to you soon with something tasty to do with the five egg whites you’ve got leftover. Stay cool and I’ll try to do the same! 

HELLO AGAIN–ABOUT THE EGG WHITES!
I didn’t forget! I revisited these yummy flourless chocolate cookies from a few months back, but with a Mexican twist this time. Rather than raspberries and white chocolate, I added:

½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ancho chili powder
¼ teaspoon chipotle

From your egg whites, do your best to subtract 2 tablespoons’ worth (to equal one egg).
18 minutes will give you a crispy cookie.
Around the 15 minute mark produces a cookie with a chewy, brownie-like texture.
Have fun!

Last week, I tried a variation of Payard’s Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies. Deep, dark chocolaty, “chewy, gooey,” gluten-free, even–a bonus for two of my girlfriends. I substituted pecans for walnuts and added ground espresso and white chocolate chips. OK, cool. Game on.

Imagine my surprise when I put the cookies in the oven.
They did not spread out.
They did not form cookie-like shapes.
They maintained their hunk of dough forms and…did not bake.
Whatthe?!

Hmmm--rocks!

Nothing like going out to buy special Valrhona chocolate for baking, only to open the oven door to discover there isn’t a whole lot of baking going on. Quick–turn up the oven to 330! That’ll fix it. No, not quite. Hmmm, just three more minutes, maybe. OK, five more.

Long story short: I baked a dozen chocolate rocks. Remember, this is why the Italians call them biscotti–it’s their fancy word for rocks (kidding!). The rocks were quite tasty, but I didn’t intend to bake jawbreakers. Thankfully, my mom thinks they’re the best rocks ever and has been enjoying them dunked in tea.

Problem solved!
Afterwards, I discovered I had used three egg whites instead of the four the recipe called for. But having baked six cookies after the initial rocks, I can tell you, that wasn’t the biggest problem–that was the temperature. The key? Toast the pecans at 350 degrees F, then maintain that temp as you put the cookies in the oven. Once the cookies are in the oven, drop the temperature to 325 degrees F. Be sure to bring the oven back to 350 degrees F for each new batch, then drop it back down. Thanks to both Danna and Caitlin McGrath on Chowhound for helping me to troubleshoot. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/651981#5453566

Using Danna’s recipe and tips as my guide, along with the Payard recipe, I made very minor tweaks and successfully baked the following:

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE COOKIES
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 ½ cups confectioners sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground espresso
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups pecans, toasted, then coarsely chopped
1/4 cup white chocolate chips (will use 1/3 cup next time)
7 raspberries (will use ¼ cup next time)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 9 minutes, giving them a shake about halfway through, till they are fragrant. Let cool slightly, then coarsely chop the nuts.

Whisk together cocoa powder, confectioners sugar, ground espresso and salt in a bowl.  Add chopped pecans. Slowly add egg whites and vanilla to cocoa/nut mixture. Beat batter at medium speed until glossy, about 2 minutes. Do not overbeat. I added 7 raspberries, somewhat afraid to add a whole ¼ cup. Next time I’ll be brave. Smash each raspberry into the side of the bowl with a fork. Stir in white chocolate chips.

Use a tablespoon to drop batter onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment. Leave some space between the cookies because if the temperature is right, the batter will spread. Put baking sheet on middle rack of oven, then reduce temperature to 325 degrees F. Bake until small thin cracks appear in tops of cookies, 15 to 18 minutes. 18 minutes will give you a crispy cookie.
Around the 15 minute mark produces a cookie with a chewy, brownie-like texture.

Cool cookies completely on baking sheet on a rack and peel from paper.

Ready to bake!

You want this!

HOW ‘BOUT A MEXICAN CHOCOLATE VARIATION?

Omit the raspberries and white chocolate, and add:
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ancho chili powder
¼ teaspoon chipotle

Spicy and delicious, hot chocolate!