Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

This post is sponsored by Paderno Kitchenware. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
assembling chicken taco

Who doesn’t love a good taco? Personally, I think tacos are among the most fun foods to eat. I love getting to choose my own toppings and that you can pack so many fresh flavors into a small, handheld package. We have taco nights fairly frequently in our home, so I’m always brainstorming tasty and seasonal taco filling ideas to keep things interesting.

Chicken tacos might sound a bit dry and boring, but not this one! This chicken taco filling is tender and packed with flavor, thanks to a dose of homemade roasted salsa and the low-and-slow magic of the Paderno 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker. I always spring for chicken thighs as they’re generally quite economical, not to mention a flavorful and forgiving cut. They only need a few hours in the slow cooker to turn tender and shreddable; and leftovers don’t dry out in the fridge.

While you could use a storebought salsa for this recipe, I definitely recommend trying this roasted version. Roasting the vegetables adds sweetness and smokiness to the salsa, and this recipe makes enough for both the chicken cooking liquid and for topping your tacos (and probably a bit left over to go with your favorite tortilla chips!).

Serve these tacos with your favorite toppings — I particularly like avocado slices, shredded cabbage, extra salsa and cilantro, and a touch of sour cream.

roasting veggies
adding onions to slow cooker
slow cooker chicken tacos unassembled
slow cooker chicken tacos assembled

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

For the roasted tomato salsa:

  • 3 lbs fresh tomatoes (~10-12 medium)
  • 1 medium red onion, skin removed
  • 1 medium white onion, skin removed
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 large handful of cilantro, chopped (both leaves and stems)
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice (1-2 Tbsp), salt, and pepper to taste

For the slow cooker chicken taco filling:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced (seeded if desired)
  • 3-4 medium cloves garlic, minced

To finish:

  • Flour or corn tortillas
  • Reserved roasted tomato salsa
  • Your favorite taco toppings (i.e. avocado slices, cheese, shredded lettuce/cabbage, sour cream, cilantro, lime wedges)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 450F with a rack in the upper third. Cut a deep “x” into the tops of the tomatoes and onions. Cut the jalapenos in half and deseed. Cut bell pepper into quarters and deseed. Peel and separate garlic cloves.
  2. Arrange vegetables in a single layer in a large roasting pan or baking sheet (I used the Paderno Stainless Steel Multi-Roaster). Drizzle with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast for 10 minutes. Switch oven to broil. Broil for ~2 minutes or until vegetables are lightly charred. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  4. While vegetables are cooling, generously season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches, sear on both sides over medium-high heat until browned. Set aside.
  5. When vegetables are cool enough to handle, pulse in batches, along with dried oregano and cilantro, in a food processor or blender until desired consistency (I like to leave it a bit chunky). Taste and adjust seasoning with apple cider vinegar, lime juice, salt, and pepper.
  6. Spread sliced onion, jalapeno, and garlic on the bottom of the Paderno 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker. Arrange seared chicken thighs in a single layer on top. Add enough roasted tomato salsa so that chicken pieces are just barely poking through the top. Reserve and refrigerate remaining salsa.
  7. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours, or until chicken is fork-tender. Remove and shred chicken, then stir back into the cooking liquid.
  8. To assemble tacos: Warm tortillas in a dry skillet or in the microwave. Spread a layer of shredded chicken on the bottom of each tortilla and top with your favorite accompaniments. Enjoy!

Peach Crisp Ice Cream

peach crisp ice cream in container

Before we round the corner into September (!!), I have one last ice cream recipe for you. Churning frozen treats has definitely been my summer 2019 obsession — I’ve been making frozen yogurt, sorbet, sherbet, eggless ice creams, and custard ice creams as fast as we can consume or share each batch. It’s just so addicting (and delicious)!

I’ve especially enjoyed trying to incorporate various seasonal fruits into ice cream. While either sorbet or an eggless (“Philadelphia”) ice cream base has been my modus operandi when incorporating fruit — I find the lack of eggs helps the fruit flavor shine through better — this time I was going for a peaches and cream vibe and wanted a bit of extra richness. I used the same buttermilk custard base from the toast and jam ice cream, but added in a honey-sweetened roasted peach puree. Swirls of peach jam amp up the “peachiness” while sprinkles of crisp oat streusel add texture and nuttiness. It’s like eating a peach crisp a la mode!

A few notes:

  • This makes a fairly large batch of ice cream — probably the largest amount my home ice cream maker can handle. If you have a smaller machine you will want to churn in two batches (or reduce the recipe by 25-30%).
  • The oat streusel recipe is adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home and makes way more than you need for this batch of ice cream. But! It freezes beautifully and I have absolutely loved having a big batch on hand to layer in other ice creams / sprinkle on sundaes / snack on. So I definitely recommend just making the full batch and patting yourself on the back later.
  • My favorite containers for storing ice cream are these Cambro 1-quart Poly Rounds. They don’t take up a lot of room in the freezer and they’re the perfect size for a typical home batch. But you can use a loaf pan, empty yogurt container, or similarly-sized freezer-safe vessel. Whatever container you choose, I recommend sticking it in the freezer while you are churning your ice cream to help minimize melting!
peach crisp ice cream in cone

Peach Crisp Ice Cream

Makes a generous 1 quart | Inspired by Salt & Straw and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

Ingredients:

For the buttermilk custard base:
  • 1/2 c + 2 Tbsp / 125g granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp dry milk powder
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp / 40g light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
For the roasted peach puree:
  • 12 oz ripe peaches, pitted and chopped
  • 80g (1/4 c) honey
For the crisp oat streusel:
  • 227g cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 188g AP flour (swap in whole grain if you’d like)
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 135g old-fashioned rolled oats
To finish:
  • ~1/2 c peach jam, homemade or store-bought

Method:

  1. Make the buttermilk custard base: Combine the cream and buttermilk in a large measuring cup.
  2. Combine 100g (1/2 c) of sugar, dry milk powder, and xanthan gum in a small bowl and whisk well. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and remaining 25g (2 T) sugar and whisk until the yolks are lighter in color, about 1 minute.
  3. In a medium pot, combine the corn syrup and half (1 1/2 c) of the buttermilk/cream mixture. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth. Set the pot over medium heat and cook stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved (about 3 minutes). Remove the pot from the heat. Start whisking the yolk mixture and continue to whisk constantly while slowly drizzling the hot liquid into the yolks.
  4. Scrape the entire mixture back into the pot and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (it should register ~170F on a digital thermometer). Strain into a heatproof and airtight container and whisk in the remaining buttermilk/cream mixture. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 6 hours and up to 1 week.
  5. Make the peach puree: Preheat oven to 350F. Spread the chopped peaches in a single layer on a quarter-sheet baking pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with honey.
  6. Bake peaches for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until the released juices have thickened. (The peaches shouldn’t be browned at all.) Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, scrape the peaches and all the syrupy juices into a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until cold.
  7. Make the crisp oat streusel: Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  8. In a large bowl, whisk together the all dry ingredients except the oats. Add the cubed, chilled butter and rub it into the dry mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add the oats and stir to combine well. Spread the mixture in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet, aiming for clumps about 1/4″-1/2″ in size.
  9. Bake for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until toasted and browned. Cool completely on a wire rack, then freeze in a ziplock bag or airtight container until ready to use.
  10. Churn the ice cream: Whisk 1/4 tsp kosher salt and chilled peach puree into the chilled buttermilk base. Churn according to the instructions for your machine, until the mixture has the texture of soft serve. Transfer to a freezer-friendly container, alternating with dollops of peach jam and generous sprinklings of oat streusel. Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the ice cream so it adheres, then cover with a lid. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Ice cream will keep for up to 3 months.

Beef rib shepherd’s pie

This post is sponsored by Paderno Kitchenware. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
beef rib shepherd's pie in pan

Shepherd’s pie is a favorite meal in our house. Typically a casserole of meat, vegetables, and gravy topped with mashed potatoes, it’s comfort food at its finest. It’s also a dish that can take on any number of variations, depending on your mood and what’s in the fridge. For this version, I decided to go decadent by replacing the typical ground meat filling with a beef rib stew simmered in the Paderno 6-quart Slow Cooker.

Part of the magic of a slow cooker is its ability to transform inexpensive but tough cuts of meat into melt-in-your-mouth meals. Here we take full advantage of low-and-slow cooking by simmering beef ribs overnight until the meat literally falls off the bone. The simmering liquid is reduced to a luscious gravy, and the whole stew is topped off with a thick layer of Yukon Gold mash. Delicious!

beef rib slow cooker
beef rib filling
assembling shepherd's pie

A few notes:

  • You can easily make the stew portion several days in advance. After slow-cooking the meat, simply cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate until needed. When you’re ready to assemble the shepherd’s pie, skim the fat solids off the top and rewarm in the slow cooker on low for 1-2 hours before proceeding.
  • Since the stew is quite rich, I opted to make the mashed potatoes a little leaner by using the potato cooking water instead of a dairy product. If you prefer a more decadent mash, feel free to substitute milk/cream/sour cream.
  • Customize the stew with whatever vegetables you like or have on hand! Mushrooms and peas would be great additions (I’d add them in the last hour of cooking, or during the reheat if you make the stew ahead of time). You can also sub the apple juice for red wine or beer for a different flavor.

Beef Rib Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

For the slow cooker beef ribs:
  • 5 lbs bone-in beef ribs, cut into single-bone portions
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • Half a head of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (or substitute fresh tomatoes)
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 c apple juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 75g (1/3 c) unsalted butter
  • 40g (1/3 c) all purpose flour
For the mashed potatoes:
  • 2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 in. pieces
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
To finish:
  • Chopped chives or scallion greens

Method:

For the slow cooker short ribs:
  1. Season beef ribs generously with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
  2. Grill or sear beef ribs on all sides. Meanwhile, in a large pot, sweat onion, garlic, and carrots in olive oil over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, bay leaf, and thyme for the last couple of minutes.
  3. Deglaze pan with apple juice. Add tomatoes, dijon, and worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine, and bring to a low simmer. Once simmering, remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Once finished grilling/searing ribs, transfer ribs to slow cooker, assembling in an even layer. Pour vegetable and liquid mixture over ribs. Add water so the liquid level falls just below the top of the beef.
  5. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and falls off the bones easily. (At this point you can refrigerate the stew for several days if needed; skim the fat and reheat on low for 1-2 hours when ready to proceed.)
  6. When ready to assemble and bake the shepherd’s pie, remove the bones and bay leaves from the slow cooker and discard. Strain the liquid into a large glass measuring cup. Transfer stew solids to an oven safe pan (I used the Paderno Classic Non-Stick Fry Pan) or casserole dish. Use two forks to shred any large pieces of meat.
  7. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Gradually add the reserved liquid, whisking constantly. Once all the liquid is added, raise heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking, whisking occasionally, until the gravy is thickened and reduced by about 1/3 (about 10-15 minutes). Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Add enough gravy to nearly cover the meat and vegetables (reserve the rest of the gravy for serving).
For the mashed potatoes:
  1. Place the potato pieces in a large pot and add cold water to cover by about an inch. Add several generous pinches of salt.
  2. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium heat. Once the water is simmering, turn heat down to medium low and continue simmering until the potatoes are fork-tender (10-15 minutes).
  3. Drain the potatoes, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.
  4. Return the potatoes to the pot over low heat. Add the butter. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes, adding the reserved water as needed to reach desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To finish:
  1. Preheat oven to 425F with a rack in the middle.
  2. Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the filling and score with the tines of a fork for texture, if desired.
  3. Place pan on a sheet pan to catch any drips and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are lightly browned and the edges of the filling are bubbling. Garnish with chopped chives or scallions, if desired. Serve with reserved gravy.
beef rib shepherd's pie serving
beef rib shepherd's pie gravy

Homemade ricotta and blistered tomato toasts

This post is sponsored by Paderno Kitchenware. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Have you ever tried making cheese? If not, ricotta is a great place to start — it’s one of the simplest cheeses you can make at home and honestly tastes so much better from what you find in the supermarket. And all you need is some milk and an acid!

Although you can make ricotta on the stovetop, this time I used the Paderno 6-quart Programmable Slow Cooker. Using a slow cooker offers a couple advantages. First, it allows for a more gentle heating of the milk (which you can stretch to a few hours if you are busy with other things). Second, it helps maintain a constant temperature once the acid is added.

While most ricotta recipes instruct you to let the acidified milk sit for 5-10 minutes before straining, I learned from a Serious Eats article that the yield and taste of homemade ricotta is vastly improved if you keep the mixture at a higher temperature for 20 minutes. On the stovetop, this means constant heat adjustments and pan babysitting. But thanks to the heat retention of the enamel crock and the precise temperature settings of the slow cooker, this part of the ricotta-making process is simple. Just hit a button and let the slow cooker do the work for you!

My favorite way to enjoy fresh ricotta is on fresh bread; and for these toasts, I baked a loaf of sourdough bread in the Paderno Dutch Oven. Baking bread in a dutch oven is a simple way to mimic the steam ovens commercial bakeries use. The thick walls and tight cover of the dutch oven seal in moisture and heat, allowing the loaf rise to its potential and develop a shiny, crackly crust!

Sometimes I top ricotta toasts with a drizzle of honey or swirl of jam. But during the summer (aka tomato season) you can’t beat blistered cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. I could honestly eat this any meal of the day — simple perfection!

A few notes:

  • This ricotta recipe is easily doubled; just note that it may take a bit more time initially for the milk to reach temperature.
  • To bake a loaf of bread in a dutch oven, put the dutch oven (with the cover) in the oven while the oven is preheating. Turn your unbaked bread dough onto a piece of parchment and score as desired. Carefully remove the preheated dutch oven and take off the lid. Transfer the dough, still on the parchment, to the dutch oven and replace the lid. Return the dutch oven to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes (or roughly half the baking time); then remove the lid and continue baking the bread until finished.

Homemade ricotta and blistered cherry tomato toasts

Ingredients:

For the homemade ricotta:
  • 4 c whole milk (substitute up to 1/2 c heavy cream if desired)
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp (20 ml) distilled white vinegar
  • Pinch of fine sea salt (to taste)
For the blistered cherry tomatoes:
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
To finish:
  • 4 thick slices sourdough or country-style bread, homemade or store-bought
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh basil
  • Flaky salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

  1. For the homemade ricotta: Pour the milk into the slow cooker. Heat, partially covered, until a digital thermometer reaches 185F. This can be done over a few hours on the low or medium setting, or in 30-60 minutes on the high setting. Stir occasionally to keep the milk from scorching on the sides.
  2. Once the milk reaches 185F, turn off the slow cooker. Add the vinegar and gently stir for about 10 seconds to distribute. Turn the slow cooker back on to the low setting and maintain a temperature of 175-190F for twenty minutes without stirring. Meanwhile, line a strainer with cheesecloth and suspend over a large measuring glass or bowl.
  3. After twenty minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer the curds to the lined strainer. Allow to stand until the excess liquid has liquid has drained off, or until you reach desired texture (less time for a softer ricotta and more for drier). Add salt to the curds and gently stir to distribute. Use immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.
  4. For the blistered cherry tomatoes: In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the tomatoes and saute until blistered, about two minutes. Transfer to a bowl and season to taste.
  5. Assemble the toasts: toast bread if desired. Spread on ricotta and top with blistered tomatoes. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, flaky salt and a few turns of freshly ground pepper, and fresh basil leaves.


Berry Basil Fraisier

berry basil fraisier

To me, the unofficial start of summer is the arrival of fresh strawberries. To be honest, I’m not much of a summer person — I don’t like hot weather and the mosquitoes that come with it. But I love summer produce, and our family definitely looks forward to berry picking every year.

freshly picked strawberries

For the past several years, I’ve made a fraisier to celebrate fresh strawberries. A fraisier is a traditional French strawberries and cream cake, and to me it’s the best way to enjoy candy-sweet, ripe strawberries (after eating them straight off the plant).

hannah eating strawberry

With these fraisiers I tend to be a bit casual — I usually make them a little differently every time. Sometimes I use a Japanese genoise as the cake; I’ve also made a matcha sponge version that was delicious. Sometimes I make a gelee layer for the top. I’ve also learned a few things over the years — like the need for gelatin to set the cream, and to keep the cake layers on the thin side to let the strawberries really shine through.

For my 2019 fraisier, I used some fresh basil from our garden to infuse the cream. And because the spring here was quite cool and strawberries didn’t show up until practically July, I added in a few blueberries to make this a fourth of July appropriate cake. (You could definitely just use all strawberries too, though.) The sponge is a lemon-scented chiffon, which is light and fluffy and pretty simple to whip up. The result: summer in every bite.

A few notes:
  • For easiest assembly, I recommend a 6×3 cake ring and acetate strips. You could also use a springform pan and plastic wrap, but you’ll get the cleanest results from the ring and acetate. (I use these same tools to make Momofuku-style cakes.)
  • You can make the basil pastry cream base up to 5 days in advance, but wait to add the gelatin and whipped cream until you are ready to assemble the cake.
  • For the cake, I used a half recipe of this lime chiffon cake and baked it in a 6×3 cake pan (total baking time was about 35 minutes). Don’t use a shorter pan; it will overflow. You could probably also bake this in a quarter sheet pan and cut out two 6″ rounds, but you would need to adjust the baking time.
berry basil fraisier top down

Berry Basil Fraisier

Makes one 6-inch cake

Ingredients:

  • Half a recipe of this chiffon cake, baked in a 6×3 cake pan (I subbed lemon zest and juice for lime)
  • 1 recipe basil cream diplomat (recipe below)
  • Simple syrup
  • ~1 c chopped strawberries, mixed with a spoonful of strawberry puree or jam; plus about 10-12 strawberries, halved (try to choose ones that are the same height, or trim to match) and 10-12 blueberries
  • More berries and basil leaves, to decorate
For the basil cream diplomat:
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 50g sugar (1/4 c), divided
  • 20g cornstarch or custard powder
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh basil
  • 14g (1 Tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp gelatin*
  • 1/2 tbsp cold
  • 1/2 – 1 c heavy whipping cream*

*Use 1/2 c for a thicker filling and up to 1 c for a lighter filling (I usually use 1/2-3/4 c). If you use more than 1/2 heavy cream, use 3/4 tsp gelatin. 

Method:

  1. To make the basil cream diplomat: Bring the milk and basil sprigs to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat and cover. Allow basil to steep for about 45 minutes.
  2. Strain the milk (add more to reach 1 cup if necessary) and return to the saucepan along with 40g sugar and a pinch of salt. Place a strainer over a heat-safe jug or container.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 10 g sugar and the cornstarch. Pour in a tablespoon or so of the milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Add the egg yolks and whisk until smooth.
  4. Heat the milk over medium heat until steaming. Remove from heat. Pour the milk in a slow, steady stream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Scrape the custard mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and large bubbles appear on the surface. Once the bubbles appear, continue whisking on the heat for two minutes.
  5. Strain the pastry cream into the prepared jug or container. Whisk in the butter until combined. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the top and allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold (at least 2 hours).
  6. When you are ready to assemble the cake, finish preparing the cream diplomat. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the cold water and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put two inches of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Measure 1/4 cup (60g) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the saucepan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
  7. Heat the cream until it is 120F. Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
  8. Whip the heavy cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula. Transfer to a piping bag and refrigerate while you continue assembling the cake.
  9. To assemble the berry basil fraisier: Line a 6×3 cake ring (or same-sized springform pan) with acetate (or plastic wrap) and place on a cake board or plate. Trim the cake into layers ~3/4 inch thick (you should get three; you’ll need two for the cake. The rest is a baker’s treat!).
  10. Place one layer of the cake in the bottom of the ring and brush generously with simple syrup. Place the halved strawberries, cut side out and pointed end up, around the edge of the pan. Add blueberries between the strawberries if desired. Pipe the cream diplomat between the fruits and a layer across the top of the cake. Use a offset palette knife to smooth. Fill the center with the chopped berries + jam, then cover with another layer of cream. Place the second layer of cake on top and press down to level. Soak with simple syrup, then spread a thin layer of cream across the top. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours or up to three days.
  11. Just before serving remove the cake ring and acetate. Arrange the cut fruit and basil on top as desired. (If you are doing this beforehand, brush a little warmed and thinned apricot jam on the fruit to preserve their color.) Enjoy!

Toast and Jam Ice Cream

toast and jam ice cream in a bucket


One of the questions I hear often is, “What do you do with all the bread you bake?” Truthfully, we normally don’t have a ton of leftovers; and if I know a loaf won’t be finished within a couple days I’ll usually freeze pre-cut slices. But every so often I wind up with a hunk of bread that’s just a little too stale for the freezer.

Sure, that bread could make some pretty fine croutons or breadcrumbs. Or it could be tossed in brown butter and sugar, baked until deliciously golden and nutty, and spun into a quart of homemade ice cream. Add a swirl of jam, and you’ve got breakfast for dessert? Dessert for breakfast? Either way — delicious.

This toast and jam ice cream starts with a creamy and slightly tangy buttermilk custard base. Once done churning, simply alternate layers of ice cream, brown butter crumbs and jam and freeze until firm. If you like toasty bits in every bite you can add the brown butter crumbs during the last minute of churning for more even distribution. You may not use all the crumbs, but save extras for sprinkling on top…if you can resist snacking on them beforehand!


toast and jam ice cream

Toast and Jam Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart / Inspired by Salt & Straw and Tartine

Ingredients:

For the buttermilk ice cream base:
  • 1/2 c + 2 Tbsp / 125g granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp dry milk powder
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp / 40g light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
For the caramelized bread crumbs:
  • 168g (~2 slices) day-old bread (I used sourdough)
  • 30g (2 Tbsp) butter
  • 67g (1/3 c) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Generous pinch of kosher salt
To finish:
  • ~1/2 storebought or homemade jam

Method:

  1. Make the buttermilk custard base: Combine the cream and buttermilk in a large measuring cup.
  2. Combine 100g (1/2 c) of sugar, dry milk powder, and xanthan gum in a small bowl and whisk well. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and remaining 25g (2 T) sugar and whisk until the yolks are lighter in color, about 1 minute.
  3. In a medium pot, combine the corn syrup and half (1 1/2 c) of the buttermilk/cream mixture. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth. Set the pot over medium heat and cook stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved (about 3 minutes). Remove the pot from the heat. Start whisking the yolk mixture and continue to whisk constantly while slowly drizzling the hot liquid into the yolks.
  4. Scrape the entire mixture back into the pot and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (it should register ~170F on a digital thermometer). Strain into a heatproof and airtight container and whisk in the remaining buttermilk/cream mixture. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 6 hours and up to 1 week.
  5. Make the caramelized bread crumbs: Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a sheet pan with parchment paper or silicone mat.
  6. Crumble the bread into small, corn kernel-sized bits.
  7. In a skillet, heat the butter until it melts, then continue to cook until it starts to brown. Remove from heat and stir in the bread crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
  8. Spread on the baking sheet and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring a few times during baking, until the bread bits are well-toasted and a deep, dark brown.
  9. Cool completely then store in an air-tight container until ready to use. (They can be made a few days in advance and stored at room temperature.)
  10. Churn the ice cream: Whisk 1/4 tsp kosher salt into the chilled buttermilk base. Churn according to the instructions for your machine, until the mixture has the texture of soft serve. Transfer to a freezer-friendly container, alternating with dollops of jam and generous sprinklings of bread crumbs. (If you prefer, you can add the desired amount of bread crumbs during the last minute of churning.) Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the ice cream so it adheres, then cover with a lid. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. It will keep for up to 3 months.
toast and jam ice cream scoop

Sourdough Focaccia

carapelli focaccia
This post is sponsored by Carapelli Olive Oil. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

While I love a hearty whole-grain sourdough loaf, nothing hits the spot like a fresh piece of focaccia fresh out of the oven. With a salted top, chewy interior, and crisp bottom, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of soup or stew. But it’s also a pretty tasty snack on its own, dipped in some good olive oil.

Focaccia is also one of the simplest breads to make, so it’s great for beginners or for days when you don’t have the time to babysit your dough. You don’t have to do much shaping or kneading for this bread — just mix, let it double, fold and let double again (this gives an extra airy, even texture); then gently turn into an oiled pan and let it rise some more before topping and baking. I’ve found that the key to really good focaccia is patience — really give it time to double twice for the best texture and flavor, and don’t be in a hurry to push it out to the edges of your pan.

For this sourdough focaccia, I used Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil to create a flavorful bread with a crisp bottom and luscious, chewy interior. It’s especially delicious served with Carapelli Founders Edition Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a fresh and well-balanced blend with notes of wildflower and citrus. While you can top your focaccia with anything you want, I like to keep it simple with flaky salt, pepper, and a light sprinkling of herbs and parmesan to let the flavor of the bread and olive oil really shine.

A few notes:
  • I typically mix and bake focaccia in the same day, but you can retard the dough overnight too. You can refrigerate the dough either after the first doubling (fold, then put in the fridge to double again, then proceed as written); or you can refrigerate the dough after it’s been turned out into the oiled pan.
  • If you’re baking for a crowd, you can double this recipe and bake it in two 8-inch pans or in one 9×13 pan.
crumb shot focaccia
focaccia olive oil pour

Sourdough Focaccia

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients:

  • 95g ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 156g water
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil (plus more for coating the pan and drizzling)
  • 213g bread flour
  • 10g rye flour
  • 5g sea salt
  • Flaky salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and grated parmesan

Method:

  1. Mix together all ingredients from starter through sea salt until smooth. Transfer to a well oiled container and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel.
  2. Let dough rise until doubled (this can take 3-6 hours, depending on the temperature and the strength of your starter). Fold, then let double again.
  3. Pour a couple Tbsp of olive oil into 8×8 pan and tilt to cover the entire bottom.
  4. Carefully turn dough into the oiled pan, doing your best not to let it deflate. Let rest, covered, for 30 minutes, then gently press from the center out to fill the corners. (If the dough resists at all, let it rest for another 10 minutes and try again.) Let rise, covered, until very puffy and airy (in my 2-inch high pan, the dough comes up halfway). This usually takes me 2-3 hours (longer if the dough has been refrigerated overnight — see notes above). About 30-60 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500F with a rack and baking stone (if you have one) in the middle.
  5. When you’re ready to bake, drizzle the focaccia with olive oil and dimple the top with your fingers. Sprinkle with flaky salt, black pepper, and thyme leaves, if desired.
  6. Bake at 500F for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 450F and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned and risen. Sprinkle on some parmesan during the last 10 minutes of baking, if you’d like.
  7. Let the focaccia cool in the pan for a couple of minutes before removing and cooling on a wire rack. It’s best served fresh out of the oven, but leftovers can be wrapped in foil and re-warmed in a low oven the next couple of days.


hannah poking focaccia


Strawberry Swirl Frozen Yogurt

strawberry swirl frozen yogurt cone

I try to be a “kitchen stuff” minimalist. Don’t get me wrong: my eyes light up when I discover a new bakeware store, and my idea of a good time is browsing the kitchen-related aisles of HomeGoods or HomeSense. But I usually take my time when it actually comes to buying stuff, especially appliances that take up valuable counter or storage space.

Case in point: ice cream makers. I’ve probably threatened to buy one for the past three summers. But I’ve never bit the bullet, sticking to semifreddos and extra trips to the ice cream parlor. (The texture of no-churn recipes have never really excited me.)

But this year, the new Salt & Straw cookbook arrived in the mail; and between the mouthwatering pictures of flavors like Sea Salt and Caramel Ribbon and Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper and pregnancy cravings for Wendy’s Frosties, I knew this had to be the Summer of Homemade Ice Cream. I mentioned to my husband that I was starting to research ice cream makers. And by the next day, with the help of a friend, he had procured a Cuisinart ICE-20 (I’ve mentioned he’s a keeper, right?). Predictably, I can’t stop churning.

One of the great features of the Salt & Straw cookbook is that it starts out with three simple base recipes: one for regular ice cream, one for sorbet/frozen yogurt/sherbet/gelato, and one for coconut (dairy free) ice cream. Most of the remaining recipes build off one of these bases; and you can actually whip up large batches of the bases and refrigerate/freeze portions for later use so you can practically churn up a pint on a whim.

I decided to start my churning journey with this strawberry swirl frozen yogurt. A ribbon of strawberry syrup adds a touch of sweetness and color to a creamy, tart fro-yo base. I can see having a pint of this deliciousness always on hand, changing up the fruit depending on the season.

A few notes:
  • I’ve tried this with both regular 2% Greek yogurt, and full-fat regular yogurt (strained overnight in a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a bowl). Both work well, though I slightly preferred the texture of regular Greek yogurt. Either way, do not use fat-free yogurt for this recipe.
  • You can also sub 1/2 cup sour cream for part of the yogurt for a little added tang and richness.
  • Straining the strawberry syrup is optional; if you like a more chunky frozen yogurt you can leave the fruit solids in. If you do strain the syrup, the remaining fruit can be refrigerated and used to spread on toast or top your fro-yo.


strawberry swirl frozen yogurt in a scoop
Marcus eating frozen yogurt

Strawberry Swirl Frozen Yogurt

Makes about 3 pints / Inspired by Salt & Straw and Serious Eats

Ingredients:

For the base:
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 c (80g) light corn syrup
For the frozen yogurt:
  • 1/4 to 1/2 c strawberry syrup (recipe follows)
  • 1 1/2 cups base
  • 1 1/2 c (360g) super-tart Greek yogurt, very cold (see notes above)
  • 3/4 c whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
For the strawberry syrup swirl:
  • 8 oz / 225g trimmed and chopped strawberries
  • 2 Tbsp / 30 g freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • 6 oz / 175g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Method:

  1. Make the base: Stir together the sugar and xanthan gum in a small bowl. Combine 1 1/4 c water and the corn syrup in a small saucepan. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth (but don’t fret over a few lumps). Set the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved, about 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool completely.
  2. Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and store in the fridge until cold, at least 4 hours, or up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 1 year. (Just be sure to fully thaw it and stir well before using it.)
  3. Make the strawberry syrup: Combine strawberries, lemon/lime sugar, and salt in a medium pot. Note the pot’s weight at this stage so the reduction can be tracked on the scale (or you can use a digital thermometer). Mash the strawberries with a fork or metal spatula until swimming in juice.
  4. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, continuously stirring and scraping along the bottom and sides of the saucier with a flexible, heat-resistant spatula. This should take about 5 minutes.
  5. Once the mixture begins to boil, continue cooking until reduced by 4 ounces (mixture should be 220°F) for a thin, saucy ribbon or 5 ounces (224°F) for a thick, gooey ribbon. This should take about 6 minutes.
  6. Strain the syrup into a heatproof container. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.
  7. Churn the frozen yogurt: Before churning, place a 1-quart container into the freezer, along with a spatula. Place the yogurt, milk, and salt into a bowl and whisk until combined. Add the base and whisk until smooth. (If you have an immersion blender, you can add all ingredients together and blend until smooth.) Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and turn on the machine. Churn just until the mixture has the texture of a pourable frozen smoothie.
  8. Quickly transfer the fro-yo into the prepared container: Spoon in layers of fro-yo alternated by drizzles of strawberry syrup (I used about half of the syrup, but use as much as you want). You can use a knife to swirl the two occasionally, or leave as-is for more distinct strawberry ribbons.
  9. Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the fro-yo-so it adheres, then cover with a lid. It’s okay if the parchment hangs over the rim. Store it in the coldest part of your freezer (farthest from the door) until firm, at least 6 hours. It will keep for up to 3 months.

Zeppole

zeppole

A couple years ago, my husband came home from work one day and asked, “Have you had a zeppole? They’re so good!” I had, in fact, never had a zeppole nor heard of them. So over the next couple of weeks, we went on a bit of an Italian bakery run trying to find zeppole for me to try.

Turns out zeppole are basically Italian doughnuts, and they come in many different forms: baked, fried, filled, and unfilled. After sampling a variety of zeppole, we realized our favorite were the Zeppole di San Giuseppe variety, which are basically doughnut-shaped cream puffs. Traditionally these are eaten to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day (a Catholic holiday in March), which is pretty much the only time you can find them in actual Italian bakeries in our area. But they’re too delicious to not be eaten the rest of year; and since they’re made from good ol’ choux, they’re easy enough to pull off at home!

A few notes:

  • Traditionally, this style of zeppole are garnished with canned sour cherries. This is delicious, but if you don’t have any you can just use some fresh fruit or a thick jam.
  • If you like a lighter/softer filling, you can whip up some heavy cream (I’d probably do 1/2 cup or so) and fold it into the pastry cream before filling the zeppole.
  • Zeppole are best consumed within 4 hours of assembling, but all the components can be prepared ahead of time: the pastry cream can be refrigerated up to 3 days and the choux rings can be baked and stored at room temperature for a couple of days (or frozen for longer storage). If the pastry softens during storage, recrisp by baking uncovered at 300°F for 5-8 minutes. Cool completely before filling.
choux pastry rings
baked zeppole

Zeppole

Makes about 10 zeppole

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe choux pastry (prepared through step 4)
  • 1 batch vanilla pastry cream (recipe below)
  • Thick fruit jam or preserves (I used strawberry)
  • Fresh fruit, canned sour cherries, or additional thick jam, to finish
  • Powdered sugar, to finish (optional)
For the vanilla pastry cream:
  • 1 1/2 c whole milk
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 100g granulated sugar, divided
  • 40g custard powder (or cornstarch)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 28g unsalted butter, at room temperature

Method:

  1. Make the vanilla pastry cream: Place a sieve over a heatproof container. Combine the whole milk and heavy cream in a medium saucepan along with 80g of the sugar. Whisk to combine.
  2. In a medium bowl, place the remaining 20g granulated sugar and sift in the custard powder or cornstarch. Pour in a splash of the milk-cream mixture and whisk to combine (this helps prevent lumpy custard). Add a bit more of the milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the egg yolks.
  3. Bring the remaining milk-cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Once it has reached a simmer, remove from the heat and slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium to medium high heat, whisking continuously.
  4. As soon as the mixture thickens and large bubbles appear, turn the heat to low and continue whisking on the heat for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain into the prepared container. Whisk in the butter, followed by the vanilla extract.
  5. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard to keep a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled (at least three hours, or up to 3 days).
  6. Bake the zeppole: Preheat the oven to 425F with a rack in the middle. On a large piece of parchment using a cookie cutter or other round object, trace about ten 2 1/2 inch circles. Space the circles at least 2 inches apart. Place the parchment on a large baking sheet (with the tracing on the underside so you don’t get pen/pencil onto your zeppole). Transfer the choux dough to a large piping bag fitted with an open star/French piping tip. Pipe rings of choux using the tracings as a guide. After you’ve piped all the bases, go back and pipe another, smaller ring on the top inside edge of the bottom ring. (If you have any dough left, you can pipe little cream puffs to use it up.) Dust the rings with icing sugar.
  7. Bake the pastry for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 375F and continue baking until the rings are puffed and a deep golden brown — about another 20-30 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet after about 30 minutes total baking time — avoid opening the oven door any sooner, or your pastry may collapse. After the rings are finished but still hot, pierce the bottoms with a skewer or paring knife and return to the turned-off oven for 10 minutes to allow the steam to escape and the insides to dry out (prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon). Transfer rings to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before filling.
  8. Assemble the zeppole: Whisk the chilled pastry cream to loosen and transfer to a piping bag fitted with an open star tip.
  9. Using a sharp serrated knife, trim off the top third of the choux rings and set aside. Remove any soft bits from inside the shells.
  10. Spread a thin layer of jam on the bottom of the rings. Pipe the cream on top. Place the tops back on and pipe a dollop of cream in the centers. Garnish with a sour cherry, fresh fruit, or a dab of jam. Dust with powdered sugar if desired. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours. (The pastry will eventually start to soften, so it’s best to fill the zeppole shortly before eating.)
baked zeppole with garnish

Fish Sticks and Tartar Sauce

fish sticks and tartar sauce

Before having kids, I really enjoyed daily dinner prep. Both my husband and I are fairly adventurous eaters, so I had fun scouring the internet and cookbooks finding new dishes and techniques to try, or riffing on our fridge contents to create interesting meals.

Nowadays, I still enjoy making dinner but my methods and priorities have definitely shifted. Speed and “will the kids eat it?” are of the essence; new recipes and unusual flavors are typically saved for the weekends or side dishes. While both my kids like to eat, we do experience the typical toddler pickiness that often changes from meal to meal. So finding meals that are palatable for both three-year-olds and thirty-somethings can sometimes be a challenge.

One thing I can always count on my kids being willing to try is anything that involves dipping. So when I was flipping through Jane Hornby’s new cookbook Simple and Classic this breaded fish and tartar sauce recipe caught my eye.

Homemade fish sticks might sound a bit fussy and labor intensive, but these actually come together fairly quickly — totally doable for a busy weeknight. And — more importantly — they are delicious! Using a firm white fish means the fish sticks are mild enough for the little people, and the flavorful crust and punchy dip makes it interesting enough for the older ones. This definitely earned a spot in the regular dinner rotation!

I’m looking forward to trying some of the other dishes in Hornby’s book — it’s packed full of straightforward, easy-to-follow recipes that are simply photographed with step-by-step shots. There’s a nice blend of familiar dishes — such as Sticky BBQ Chicken, Chocolate Profiteroles, and Cheese and Onion Tart — interspersed with more adventurous ones — say, Raspberry & Passion Fruit Mallow Meringue, Lemon Basil Gnudi with Fava Beans, and Shrimp and Mushroom Laksa. Thanks very much to Phaidon Books for sending it along!

A couple of notes:

  • Instead of using day-old white bread, I used panko (about 175g to account for the discarded bread crusts). I just mixed all the coating ingredients together in a bowl instead of using a food processor.
  • This recipe makes quite a bit of coating; I had a bit leftover. I recommend just putting some of it on a plate to coat the fish and refilling as necessary. Extras can be frozen; in fact, Hornby suggests making a double batch and freezing the remainder for the future.
simple and classic jane hornby cover

Fish Sticks and Tartar Sauce

Serves 4 / Adapted from Simple and Classic by Jane Hornby

Ingredients:

  • 4 thick slices white bread (day-old bread is best), about 7 oz. (200g)
  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbsp mild olive oil
  • 2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese (2/3 c grated)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 3/4 lb (800g) sustainably sourced thick white fish fillet, such as cod, haddock, or pollack
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp capers
  • 1 large or 5 small pickles (gherkins)
  • 1/2 c (100g) good-quality mayonnaise (swap half for sour cream, if desired)
  • salt and pepper
  • salad greens or peas, to serve

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Cut the crusts from the bread and discard. Put the bread into a food processor with half of the parsley — stems (stalks) too — and all of the oil.
  2. Blend everything together to make oily, herbed bread crumbs. Finely grate the Parmesan and the lemon zest, then mix into the crumbs with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Cut the fish into chunky sticks about 1 1/4″ x 1 1/4″ x 4 inches ( 3 x 3 x 10 cm).
  4. Put the flour onto a plate and season it generously with salt and pepper. Break the egg into a bowl, add salt and pepper to this, too, then beat it with a fork. Dust a piece of fish with the flour, then dip it into the egg. Let the excess egg drip off into the bowl below, then roll and pat the fish in the crumbs until covered in an even layer.
  5. Place it onto a nonstick baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the fish. Rinse and dry your hands every now and again, because they can get sticky.
  6. Bake the fish for 12-15 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Meanwhile, make the tartar sauce. Cut the lemon in half, squeeze one half, and cut the other into wedges. Finely chop the remaining parsley leaves, the capers, and pickles (gherkins), and put into a bowl. Add the mayonnaise and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve the fish with the tartar sauce, lemon wedges, and some salad leaves or just-cooked peas.