Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nuts and Honey



Shall we say it has been a while since I have put on an apron?  Back in the US, as jet lag was settling in, I laid in bed, wide awake at 3am.  I opened one of my favorite cookbooks (Pure Desserts by Alice Medrich) and I was trying to decide where I would start, when I landed on her recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies.  But cookies really go so well with ice cream... and so her Honey Ice Cream recipe would have to be made too. 


With my eyes and muscles heavy from sleeplessness, I dragged my body through the grocery aisles one at a time.  Scanning the shelves of baking ingredients, in my head I was converting the prices back to British Pounds and deciding that most things were well priced compared to London.  I started remembering the ingredients that I liked, and those not so much.  I filled my basket with the basics: flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, but also a few more interesting items: caramelized peanuts, extra dark dutch-process cocoa, and rye flour.

Back at home, I dug through the kitchen drawers finding my whisks, bowls and measuring cups. All of which had been shoved in the back, out of use.  My poor little tools, moved aside for bottle openers and soup spoons.

   
As the cookies baked, the warm peanut butter aroma filled the apartment torturing me every one of the 20 minutes I had to wait as they cooked and then cooled just enough.  There is only one thing more amazing than one of Alice's warm peanut butter cookies...one of them a la mode with a large scoop of wildflower honey ice cream.  

PB Cookies from Alice


1 1/3 cups (6 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (9 ounces) natural (but not unsalted) chunky peanut butter—stir well to blend in the oil before measuring.
5 ounces store-bought Coconut Toffee Peanuts or Toffee Peanuts, coarsely chopped


Instructions
Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or fork.
In a large bowl, mix the melted butter with the sugars. Whisk in the egg, vanilla, and peanut butter, add the flour mixture, and mix with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon just until evenly incorporated.
Cover the dough and refrigerate for an hour or two and up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
Pour the chopped nuts into a shallow bowl. Scoop about 2 level teaspoons of dough for each cookie, shape into a 1-inch ball or fat little log, and coat the top and sides heavily with the chopped nuts, pressing in any pieces that fall off so that there are no bald spots. Place 2 inches apart on the lined or greased pans.
Bake the cookies for 15 to 18 minutes, until they are lightly colored. The cookies will seem very soft to the touch, but they will firm up as they cool. For lined pans, set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool; for unlined pans, use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to racks. Cool the cookies completely before storing. May be kept in an airtight container for at least 2 weeks.




As I warmed the milk for the ice cream base, I ate/tested a few cookies.  They went down way too easily. 


Alice's Honey Ice Cream
½ cup whole milk
½ cup honey (any honey you choose)
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups heavy cream


Instructions
In a small saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat until it begins to simmer gently around the edges. Pour it into a medium bowl, and allow to cool completely. (This will prevent curdling when the honey is added.) Add the honey and salt, and stir well to dissolve the honey. Stir in the cream. Taste, and adjust the amount of honey as needed. Cover and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight. Then freeze according to the instructions for your ice cream maker. Then, before serving, store the ice cream in the freezer until hard enough to scoop, at least 3 to 4 hours 


The ice cream is super creamy, smooth, and only slightly sweet with floral notes from the Wildflowers. Eat with cookies. Or sprinkle with nuts and honey.
   

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