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Cardamom and Saffron Ice Cream

Saffron&Cardamom Ice Cream

I am usually pretty excited when Mondays roll around. New week, new things happening, new people to meet and things to discover. It’s never quite the same and I look forward to the things learned and observed. Except this Monday. It has been such a splendid weekend, I hardly want it to end. We did have an Easter egg hunt for the kids next door and an improvised picnic in the yard with the neighbors. It just filled me with joy, hope and laughter. An instant battery charger for the soul.

I am usually in charge of desserts when we get together but this time I only had ice cream ready. Actually, I could have cut tiny pieces of what was left of a chocolate coconut and mango cake I had made but that would have been like giving an elephant a thimble to drink from. (more on the cake this week). Instead, I brought down the container of Cardamom and Saffron Ice Cream I was saving for such warm and pleasant days.

Can The Weekend Last All Week?

If I had shown you the inside of the cabinets during Jen’s Kitchen Tour series, it would have confused everybody. I have what B. called "kitchen bougeotte". (To have "la bougeotte" = to be fidgety). With my parents and almost all their sibblings born an raised abroad, there was no standard for cuisine types in the family. Wherever they were they would learn some local dishes and ultimately pass them on to us. Along with all the pots and pans specific to each culture. I realized the tour would quickly require a two-page extension if I included them and I could not subject you and Jen to that. It was long enough already!!

Being here in the States is close to cuisine paradise with some many different nations in one spot, so you can bet my "kitchen bougeotte" is greatly satisfied! I am under heavy French, Asian and Indian flavors. In the pantry, each culture tends to have a specific bin. There is however a couple of spices with their own prime real estate in the pantry. Cardamom and saffron.

I love, love, love cardamom. In baked goods, mousses, cakes, you name it I am there. I use green cardamom for baking while I keep black cardamom for savory dishes. I don’t usually think of saffron when baking but I am pleasantly surprised each time I do. While I don’t pretend to be fluent in Indian cooking, I do enjoy the knowledge and recipes from other bloggers out there. I also have the loveliest of friend who prepared this ice cream the last time I saw her and from the first spoonful, I knew I would have to make it at home….quickly! This ice cream made me week in the knees, literally.

Saffron&Cardamom Ice Cream - All Dressed Up...

No saffron was harmed during the photo shoot…it all went back in its jar. Now everybody can relax."

The flavors of this ice cream are reminiscent of kulfi although the method used here is a bit different than in traditional kulfi recipes. Oh trust me, next on my list is to get me a set of kulfi molds and to try Deeba’s recipe…hmmm… Nothing could be simpler than this refreshing ice cream: cardamom infused cream, pinch of saffron and a handful of pistachios (check your sources given the recent news). Churn and dig…

Cardamom and Saffron Ice Cream Recipe:

2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
1 cup (200gr) granulated sugar
4-5 green cardamom pods
pinch of saffron
1/3 cup (40gr) raw pistachios

In a large saucepan, stir together the cream, milk and sugar. On a flat surface, or with a mortar and pestle, gently crush the cardamom pods and add both seeds and pods to the cream mixture. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let steep as it cools to room temperature. Refrigerate, preferably overnight.
Once infused, strain the mixture and remove the crushed cardamom pods. Add a few threads of saffron and stir.
Coarsely chop the pistachios and add them to the mix.
Process the mixture into your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s intructions.
No ice cream maker? No problem! Pour the cream into a freeze proof container and freeze for a couple of hours. Take it out and whip it with an electric mixer or immersion blender, freeze it again, whip it again….do that four or five times. The mixture won’t be quite the same but pretty darn close.

Saffron Pumpkin Macarons

Pumpkin Saffron Macarons

All summer long upon entering the grocery store I would grab a basket, stop at the sushi counter, pass by the salad bar, turn the corner and with my eyes closed reach in the plum and nectarine display to my left. The most visible display as you enter the store. All summer long, I would pick three of each and make a beeline for the cherries and the figs before resuming with the rest of the items on my list. Summer reached an end. Pears replaced cherries and figs turned into dates. Expected.

I still went to the store and turned the same corners, walked down the same aisles even when Autumn pointed its lovely little chilly mornings (well, for about 3 days). Last week, as I walked by the main display and reached for the plums and nectarines, I found myself holding three decorative mini gourds instead. "C’est quoi cette histoire?" What is going on? Well I really said "quesaco", Provencal for the same expression which attracted a different set of puzzled looks. After the courgettes and aubergines, the kid working at the produce section thought I was asking about a specific gourd and was already running to the back room. I feel that if I am still around at 80-90 years old, I will become that "odd lady", the ghost of the grocery store. Seriously…let’s hope I am not that "creepy odd lady".

With the summer produce moved to the back of the store, it was time I gave those little pumpkins a whirl and let Fall sit at the kitchen table while I bake and write. There are days it is difficult to wax poetic about a cherry dessert for the book when the aromas of mulled wine and apple cider are coming from next door. We still do not have anything that resembles Fall here but we like to practice. We gather wood, we make pretty piles, we shop for scarves and try to knit. We get in the spirit even if we can’t wear our coats. We get excited with the first whisper of Northern wind.

Pumpkin & Macarons

I am doing just that. I bought a few mini pumpkins and gourds and turned them into votives, set them on the dining room table to set the mood. I cooked the flesh down and was left with about half a cup, which was a little too little for pumpkin pie. I thought about mixing it with some cream cheese to make a couple of small cheesecakes. While rummaging through the fridge, I spotted a container of egg whites, and the package of saffron, next to the almonds. The fridge was making the recipe up for me, signs of macarons everywhere!! I needed a little snack to take next door to our weekly neighbors' gathering and was not sure how the concoction forming in my head would be received. I settled on lightly infused saffron shells with a simple cream cheese and pumpkin filling with just a touch of cloves.

In the past year, a lot of people have started to make macarons on a more regular basis and the first remark I read for first timers is how surprisingly very sweet they are. Ah, yes…I guess we forgot to tell you…they are! That’s why they are small, sold individually or in small box and are best shared with a group of friends. Back home, we eat one with coffee or tea, not like a handfull animal crackers in the middle of the afternoon, not that there is anything wrong with that. Hence, I like to use a slightly less sweet filling and cream cheese is fantastic in that regard and works great with all sorts of flavors.

The second most frequently asked question is what is the best way to pipe even shells all the time. When you do macarons regularly, it becomes difficult not to. Your hands repeat the motions. Over the years, your wrists have registered the nuances and your hands repeat the motion. I always write back the same thing "Hold your tip at a 45 degree angle. Press the filling through your pastry bag from the top down . Practice, practice, practice". Some people are ingenious and smart thinkers and tediously trace circles on parchment paper, invert the sheet, pipe and bake. That takes time and patience. Maybe it is a reason why people make macarons once and never again? On top of the required nut grinding, meringue folding just so…there is piping even circles so they can be paired up aesthetically and not look like distant cousins.

Guess what? Somebody has come up with the solution for you. No…not me. Her. When Helena first posted about macarons, I noticed a sheet full of macaron shell imprints and told her that many macarons novices would probably love to use such a tool to make even shells on their first tries. She graciously replicated her template and came up with two shell sizes available to download and print. Ok, so even if I don’t "need" a template, I love crafty people and things, so you know I had to give these a try!! She also added a set of diagonal patterns for trained sticklers (no offense, I am there). I printed out both templates on card stock paper, sneaked one sheet under my parchment paper and piped, slid the template away and baked the shells. Easy peasy! Thank you Helena! One more difficulty out of the way for those tempted to try macarons….

Pumpkin Saffron Macarons

Saffron Pumpkin Macarons:

Makes 12-18 macarons, depending size

Note: I did whip the egg whites with the saffron together without a problem, but if you fear that your whites might not foam up properly because the saffron has taken on moisture or oiliness, ground the almonds with the saffron instead and proceed with the recipe as written.

Saffron shells:
3 egg whites (about 90 gr)
1/2 tsp saffron
40 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds

For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature in a covered container. If you want to use 48hrs (or more) egg whites, you can store them in the fridge. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam with the saffron, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry and your macarons won’t work.
Combine the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Pass through a sieve.
Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down.
The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper lined baking sheets.
Preheat the oven to 300F. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.
If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don’t let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer.

Cream Cheese Pumpkin Filling:
2 oz (60gr) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 oz (60gr) freshly cooked or canned pumpkin
1/8 tsp ground cloves

In a medium bol, mix the cream cheese, pumpkin and cloves until completely incorporated.
Fill a pastry bag with this mixture and pipe onto half the shells and top with another shell.

This is my submission to Root Source Challenge #35: Saffron.

Note: the first picture is me in an apron made by Holly of PheMomenon.

Saffron And Vanilla Poached Pears

Saffron & Vanilla Poached Pears

It has been really hot and muggy in the last week or so, nothing unusual in our area but we all took it as the usual sign of upcoming rain and thunderstorms. I don’t mind hot and I don’t mind rain, I actually don’t mind hot rain…I dislike the few hours before the sky falls open. The dogs seem to pair up and want out every thirty minutes although they just stand there noses up to the air.

Three days a week I work almost completely from home so they "know" that they will be taken out, played with, petted and loved all this in between cracking a few many eggs and rolling out pastry dough. I get up early and start baking or writing depending on what has not been done the day before and they lie around, right outside the kitchen. When the smell of the coffee brewing reaches their snouts, they suddenly jolt up and want out. Out of the five households in our little custer around the curve, 3 of us work from home while looking over kids or animals. It is not unusual for us to be in our yards, still in our jammies sipping coffee and making sleepy small talk.

Except this morning. This morning was one of those morning you want your entire body to feel, your entire soul to take in. You want mornings like this to enter your pores and breathe inside you for as long as you can take it. This morning, I felt the dew under my bare feet. Not the one you want to capture when you know the day is going to be blistering hot, no, it was harsh and delightfully unsettling. This morning, I felt goosebumps along my arms and legs, and a whiff of cold air brought the feeling of a season trying to change. The dogs started bumping around the yard, excited by all these new scents and sensations. I started taping my feet in the dewy grass, knowing full well it would be another couple of months before we’d get another morning like this, all chilly and wet, all grassy and autumnal. If only I could be a painter of scents….

We all went back upstairs and resumed our activities, baking for me, and you guessed it, sleeping for them. While I was going down my baking to do list, I could not shake away that feeling I had earlier in the yard. It was inspiring and humbling at the same time. Nature does its thing and we just happen to be in the middle of it. So after I was done with half the "to-dos", I tried to recapture the flavors I sensed earlier.

Vanilla Bean Pods & Saffron

Pears seemed perfect by in their femininity and yet firm and assertive natural scent. Vanilla, the smell of a lazy embrace. Saffron, the dewy grass under my feet. Poached….well because we were about to get soaked!! This is a most easy dessert yet rich in flavors, leaving you with nothing with goosebumps. I realize that vanilla beans and saffron are not cheap ingredients. I was very lucky that my mom sent a care package with a bag of vanilla beans and that Veronica shared some of her saffron with me for my birthday back in May. Like most people, we are on a budget but I like to save a little and invest in the "real" thing once in a while. It might seem trivial during our strange economic times to spend extras on more expensive food items, but that is really between you and….you! I am bumm….people send me care package… ๐Ÿ™‚ On a serious note, if you want to try this without the vanilla beans and saffron, use 2 Tb pure vanilla extract and the juice of one orange (blood orange if you can) in the poaching liquid and you will still have an excellent dessert.

Saffron And Vanilla Poached Pears:

Serves 4

4 cups water
1 vanilla bean
1 to 2 teaspoons saffron
3/4 cup (170 gr) sugar
juice of one lemon
4 pears

– Peel the pears and sprinkle them with the lemon juice and set them aside while you prepare the poaching liquid.
Note: I don’t core the pears in this dessert, I would do it if they were filled, I like eating around the core but feel free to do so.
– In a large pot or deep saucepan, combine the water, saffron and sugar. Split open the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out of the pod with a paring knife. Add the seeds and pods to the water and sugar mixture. Bring to boil over medium high heat, stirring a couple of times to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Bring down to a simmer and add the pears with the lemon juice.
– Cover the pot and cook the pears 10-12 minutes, turning them halfway through to make sure they cook evenly and all the way through (insert a toothpick to check).
– Remove the pears from the liquid and set them aside in deep serving plates or small ramequins.
– Simmer the poaching liquid until it reduces by half, about 10 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and pour the syrup over the pears and serve either hot or room temperature.
I like mine plain but fee free to add some ice cream or whipped cream.

Saffron & Vanilla Poached Pears