Friday, September 20, 2013

Watermelon Strawberry Sangria

What's summer without sangria? Better yet, what's work-life balance without an office sangria contest? I've only made sangria from scratch once before and I've mostly just had sangria from a local Thai restaurant so my sangria taste buds are not finely tuned yet.

Thus I turned to the experts: Joy the Baker and my family. What typically happens on family vacay is we all want to relax and drink beers or wine and for some reason worry these things won't be readily available to us so we all bring beer or wine or drink recipes and just end up with a lot of beverages because we never drink as much as we say we will or want to (I guess that's a good thing though). 

So I made this sangria and tried a glass straight away. Wow does that packs a punch! Hint: definitely let it sit overnight to absorb some of the fruit flavors. This turned out very refreshing and cool. Using about half a watermelon to create four cups of juice and some puréed strawberries as well, it provides a cool but sweet flavor. Citrus juices compliment the sweet well and cut the bite of the vodka. 

Now, this was for a competition so I prepared well and made very precise lemon slices for presentation purposes. The competition had about seven sangrias and of course we all sampled each others prior to the audience judging. It's amazing how many different kinds of sangria there are! There was another watermelon one but it was completely different from this one, and equally delicious I might add. 

Although I got a lot of compliments and even some popular votes, alas mine was not award winning. I really wanted to label this "Joy the Baker's Award Winning Sangria" but I guess I'll keep on trying. The winner, however, had quite the eclectic combination of liquors, even tequila! Usually that's a deal breaker for me but it worked here very well (clearly since it won the judges and audience prizes).

Well, with summer coming to a close, it seemed appropriate to end with a summer drink. As far as I'm concerned, September is fall. Even though it's still warm and technically summer for three weeks of the month, I say bring on the pumpkin! 

Pumpkin coffee, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin picking, apple picking, apple cider, cider donuts, it goes on and on (and in an increasingly digressive fashion).  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Panna Cotta with Blueberries and Honey

I've made a concerted effort to learn new things about cooking and baking (and drinking) by attending a lot of 'foodie' events lately. It turns out food is a  passion of mine and not just making it but learning about it and of course eating it. It's good for the body and soul. And I'm signed up for a cake decorating class in a couple months so hopefully then I can make pretty things too!

At any rate, when I went to a foodie event over the summer, I met Hedy Goldsmith. She was hilarious and amazing and I pretend we're friends. She made us panna cotta, a yogurt dessert that I'd never experienced. I had hoped to make this sooner but alas life got in the way. 

I do not yet own her cookbook so I google searched for recipes and found one on Smitten Kitchen. Success! I even have left over gelatin from the Fourth of July so was practically set. 

This is one of those recipes that is very precise. When working with gelatin, you can't mess around because it's actually science and not just fake it til you make it science. If it isn't gelatinous, not much you can do. Much like dead yeast and bread (see Parker House rolls experiment). 

So I payed special attention to this recipe and taste tested it along the way. It really tasted like sour cream to me. Granted I think most Greek yogurts have the consistency of sour cream but the plain ones actually resemble its taste. This is where taste testing is important. I added more sugar to make it sweeter and then vanilla as well. I still wasn't convinced but decided that maybe I could flavor it up with some toppings. 

Once it was set, I sampled a small amount of pannacotta that I had set aside. It tasted sweeter but still pretty plain. I added some blueberries on top and doused it in honey--probably toooo much honey, and then garnished with some fresh mint (woah there, gettin fancy). 

All in all this dessert was a nice change of pace from very sweet desserts and was quite refreshing. It's also very versatile because you could add just about any fruit or syrup to this. It's almost like a fancy parfait actually. Props to Hedy for introducing me to this!

For the recipe:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Berry Muffins

It's August. When did that happen? Wasn't it just June like a second ago? Now's the time when we realize we still have a zillion things on our summer bucket lists and seemingly very little time to complete them. Although I hear September stays warm for a little while but my summer scheme refuses to remember this.
Browning the butter, it smells so good! 

One of the great things about summer is all the fresh produce. I managed to utilize rhubarb season (I'm clinging to that season by the last two stalks in the grocery store) but there are also an abundance of peaches, blueberries and strawberries. Mondays are rough. Muffin Mondays are awesome. 
Strawberries and blueberries make a patriotic mix
I didn't think I'd have enough blueberries for these breakfast treats so I chopped up some strawberries too, thinking it would make half the muffins blueberry and half strawberry. Oooor just mixing the two to make berry muffins. I think this resembles and possibly beats Starbucks berry coffee cake. The muffins have a crumbly topping and it was pretty plain sounding so I added some cinnamon to make it more cobblery. I think this would be great with a crisp topping with oats involved. Dizzy daydreams of baking. 
My hands are clean, I swear

I also think this would be delicious with some rhubarb sauce drizzled on top but that would require me to make it with those last stalks of rhubarb. More on that soon, apparently it also requires some rosé--oh darn. 
The final product! Muffin Mondays may become a thing in my life