Yes, I know, I need to simplify somewhere along the line with cooking/baking blog-alongs but I am just not sure where to do that as I enjoy them all and it keeps me from actually having to think of creative meals/menus myself. I am, however, pretty sure that adding another one is not necessarily simplifying. Or maybe it is, as somewhere along the line, if I am enjoying this one as much as I think I am going to enjoy this one, another will need to be allocated to a lesser status.
That said, a couple will be ending shortly, so welcome, welcome to The Flavors Challenge (see link here). I first found out about this challenge through a group of bloggers (and primarily Jerry, who I have followed for years as his blog is full of food, travel, fun) who made and blogged all the recipes in Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking cookbook. They posted daily and followed the book in order of presentation, each member committing for certain recipes for each section. The book itself does not contain photographs of the completed recipes, so if you ever want to know what a recipe looks like, you should definitely mark this site for future reference as they are ALL there, all the recipes have photos. What a deal for me when I am cooking from that cookbook.
Forgive me, I digress, but in a good way. The Flavors challenge is based on the book The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg (click here). What attracted me to the challenge was that this group is doing something I think will make me a better cook...i.e. they provide the main ingredient, the book provides flavors that go well with it, and you yourself choose what you will do with it each week. This is something new and different for me as my other blog-alongs are all recipe-based. The only stipulation is that you use the ingredient, one of the BOLD in CAPITAL letters ingredients, one of the bold print ingredients (not capitalized), and one of the other ingredients listed which do not appear in bold type at all.
It sounds fun. It sounds like something that will definitely make my meals and recipes even tastier, something the guys will really appreciate as they love good food. So without further ado, the first week's featured seasonal ingredient is plums.
I wanted to pick something that would really bring out the flavor of the plums as we love plum season with those nice juicy plums easily found in the stores and markets. I happened to hit a farmer's market for these this week, and they were big (about 4 ounces each, nice and fleshy and juicy, plums are rather sexy, aren't they?). After some consideration, I decided to make plum ice cream and maybe a plum cookie to go along with it.
From the sliced plums, to the pot of cooked plums...
To the ice cream maker full of churned plum goodness...
To the beauty that the plums imparted to this ice cream...
To the finished presentation, because, let's face it, I live in a household of guys and if you expect them to eat PINK food, it must be accompanied by something a little more masculine, and something cookie never hurts either.
The plum ice cream features several ingredient add-ins, in small amounts (with the exception of the 2 teaspoons of black pepper), to give just a hint of flavor, but not enough to overpower the flavor of the plums, which I did not want to do, I wanted the plum flavor to really shine.
The cookies have a small amount of chocolate in them (guys here think it might not possibly be considered true dessert without some chocolate in the mix somewhere along the line, that's how they roll), but again, Mark says that the chocolate is just sort of there to compliment the plum taste and that the plum flavor is primarily present in the cookie.
I made the cookie a sort of cake-cookie so that it would seem that one was eating ice cream and cake, a nice soft cake-like texture. In the photo you can see the plum bits in the cookie, as you can also see in the ice cream (along with the black pepper bits...don't be afraid of this, it tasted sweet and creamy with just a tiny little kick from the pepper which works so beautifully with the plums).
Plum Ice Cream
Makes 1 Quart
1 pound of PLUMS (do not peel)
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup SUGAR
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon CINNAMON
1/2 teaspoon VANILLA
1/2 teaspoon dark rum
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1) Slice the plums into 8 wedges, discarding the center pit. Place into a medium nonreactive saucepan with the water, cover, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until tender, about 10-12 minutes.
2) Remove from heat and stir in the sugar until it is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.
3) After it is cooled, puree in food processor with the remaining ingredients.
4) Chill thoroughly and freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.
Makes 18 Medium-large cookies
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup SUGAR
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup sour cream
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon CINNAMON
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cooked pureed PLUMS (skins left on and I left them rather chunky so they would be visible in the cookie)
1) In mixer beat butter and sugar together until well blended.
2) Add egg and mix just until blended.
3) Add baking soda, a pinch of salt, sour cream, chocolate and mix just until blended.
4) Add flour, cinnamon, pepper and mix just until blended.
5) Stir in pureed plums until mixed in nicely.
6) Drop by spoonfuls (I used a 2 oz ice cream scoop) onto a greased and floured cookie sheet (I used Silpat mat on cookie sheet), about 9 per sheet as they spread a little bit while baking.
7) Bake, one cookie sheet at a time, for 18 minutes at 350 degrees.
8) Let cool on pan for about 3 minutes and then remove with a sturdy spatula to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
If you are interested in cooking/baking along with the challenge, the main group consists of only 7 members, each one assigned a certain day to post their creation, the site I linked here explains how to do that, and if you go to this link, you can view the Seasonal List of Featured Ingredients for the entire 52 weeks of the challenge (and no, you do not have to do all of them, as stated on the site, you can just post when the spirit moves you and leave your link). Here is the main page for the Flavors challenge so you can see and keep current with what is being made each day/week, click here. Would love to see you there...if nothing else, visit the blog for the recipes...at the end of the year you will have at least 365 of them, all new!