Time... and a Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake

March 11th, 2015.  It feels like a lifetime ago.  Thats when we posted our first recipe to our little experiment called Traveling Fork.  It was granola and we had just recently decided to go with the name Traveling Fork over Food Before Coffee.
Since then, we've spent many hours rushing against the dying window light of the short, gloomy winter skies, walking alleys and trails near and far, and testing out countless recipes in the kitchen.  The days just aren't long enough sometimes.

I've learnt so much about cooking, photography, food, travel, relationships... myself, over the last couple years.  It's been a truly amazing, wonderful and creative time and I wouldn't trade a single second of it for anything.  But, times change.  We are constantly evolving.  Traveling Fork opened both Becky and my eyes to loads of new ideas and reignited passions that had been buried deep under school, work and the monotony of life.  It was a self created source of motivation and inspiration.  My mind is a bigger place because of it.

We learned, and we became better people as we buried ourselves in flour and sticky sourdough start, smoked out the house for the millionth time, cleaned the fermented, and quite carbonated, apple cider off the ceiling, got desperately lost in the mountains of Oaxaca, drank warm coronas and waited out rain storms, argued over the placement of spring rolls, cursed out the espresso machine, took another unsatisfying photo, swelled with frustration trying to make a website, go lost in the hills of France, again, ate eggs in a dark shack, took naps, drank beer at 10am, rode bikes down alleys, climbed mountains...
I feel that success isn't how long or how far you make it in something, but how much you learn from the time you have.  And, over the course of the last several years, I have learnt so very much.
Don't ignore your past and the lessons you learn.  That will only doom you to to live in a loop - repeating your mistakes and frustrations.  Learn, or repeat.  

As hard as it is to let this project go and not sit and wonder what could have been if we pursued, it's exciting to be thinking of what projects lay in the future.  Moving forward is not the same as giving up. 

So, by now you might have gathered that Traveling Fork is coming to a close as Becky and I decide to put our energy into other adventures and experiments.  We will miss making pretty food for you. 

Thanks for taking the time to follow along with us.  We have had such a blast making content for you... we hope it has inspired you to get out and do a little more exploring, or stay home and do a little more cooking.

Take care, and I'll catch you on the next adventure


- Noah


p.s.  I leave you with one last recipe that never got posted:

// Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake // makes one 9-inch cake

3/4 cup dark stout
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup molasses
3/4 cup pack light brown sugar
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon crystallized sugar, chopped
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lb of ripe pears, peeled, cored, and sliced thin

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 8 or 9-inch deep cake pan with butter (I used a 2 inch deep pan) and set aside until needed

2. In a small saucepan, heat the stout until just simmering. Add baking soda and whisk until dissolved (the stout will froth and then die down). Adjust heat to low and add molasses and brown sugar. Whisk until sugar is dissolved then remove from heat and let cool completely

3. In a large bowl combine the flour, crystallized sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt. Mix until well-combined

4. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, fresh ginger, vanilla, and completely cooled stout mixture 

5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in thirds, stirring until just mixed after each addition. Scape batter into prepared pan and top with pears in pattern of your choice. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Dust with powdered sugar if desired! 

Walnut Anise Biscotti

Truthfully, I'm not much of a cookie person (Gasp!). I'd much rather have bowl of ice cream or a slice of pie if I'm going to indulge in a sweet, but biscotti have a special place in my heart for two reasons:

1. Growing up I would make biscotti for my dad because he IS a cookie person. He likes the whole gamut - chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, snickerdoodles, molasses, etc... etc... and of course biscotti. The first time I made them for him, though, I don't think he really understand what I was saying. Bis-cot-ti. In his snow and mountain driven mind they were Big Skis, both in shape and in name. So now biscotti will always remind me of my dad and his love for cookies and skiing.

2. They're Italian and everything from Italy tastes good. Right? Pasta, espresso, gelato, pizza, affogato, mozzarella, wine,  I could go on and on. I have yet to make my way across the Italian border, but when I do, I will most definitely be eating some Italian biscotti (among many other delicious things...). Italy is very, very high in my 'top places to go' list

Despite not being 'cookie person', these biscotti were gone in about three days. With the help of Noah, of course, who is a 'cookie person', like my dad. They're just the right blend between crisp and crunchy, but not so crumbly that they dolefully fall apart after dunking a hot cup of tea or coffee (big pet peeve). I learned a nifty trick from Cook's Illustrated Baking Book to process the sugar and eggs in a food processor before mixing in the flour so that air gets incorporated into the dough. This makes the biscotti light and airy rather than dense and tooth-shattering. Big win. Even if cookies aren't your favorite treat, I highly recommend giving these a try. You'll thank me later :)  

// Walnut Anise Biscotti // makes about 20 cookies
This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite baking guides - Cook's Illustrated Baking Book. The reason I like this book (and their other books) so much is because they go into why a recipe works, not just how to a recipe is put together. For these light and crunchy biscotti, the secret is to process the eggs and sugar in the food processor so that air is incorporated into the dough. Without this air, the cookies would be much more dense and heavy. If you don't have a food processor, you could try beating the eggs and sugar with a handheld mixer.
1 1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup cane sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons anise powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg white

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2-3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325° and adjust rack to the middle of oven. Prepare a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper

2. Pulse 1 cup of walnuts in a food processor until coarsely ground, about 8-10 pulses. Remove walnuts from food processor and set aside in a bowl until needed. Process remaining 1/4 cup of walnuts until finely ground, about 45 seconds. Add flours, baking soda, and salt. Process until well mixed. Transfer flour mixture to another bowl and set aside

3. Add 2 eggs to empty food processor and process until light in color, about 3 minutes. While motor is running, slowly add maple syrup and sugar. Process for a few seconds then add melted butter, anise, and vanilla. Process until well combined, about 15 seconds. Transfer egg mixture to a medium bowl. Add half of the flour mixture to the eggs and gently fold it in. Repeat for second half of flour, being careful to not over mix. Fold in roughly chopped walnuts

4. Divide dough in half and gently form each piece into a 6-8 x 3 inch rectangle. Smooth down the tops and sides as best you can then brush tops with egg white. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until loaves are golden brown and just beginning to crack on top. Remove loaves from oven and let cool on sheet for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, use a serrated knife to cut loaves into 1/2-inch slices. Place slices on a wire rack, cut-side down, and bake for another 30-35 minutes, flipping slices halfway through. Let cool completely

5. To make the glaze, whisk together the confectioners sugar and orange juice in a small bowl. Glaze biscotti after they're cool and garnish with orange zest if desired. 

Enchanted Valley + Trail Cookies

I'm writing this as I sit on the front porch of my childhood home in Vermont, savoring a cup of hot tea with milk and honey and trying to fight the urge to nap instead of write. In front of me, across the gravel road, is a sunny, green cow pasture dotted with blooming wildflowers. The cows just went in for milking and we (my dad, Noah, and I) just got back from a quick mountain bike ride on the single track crisscossing the woods in back of our house. Life is good. Coming back home is always good. A respite from the go, go, go of city life in Seattle. 

But this post isn't about Vermont, it's about our recent trip into the Olympic National Park to the Enchanted Valley. There is something so deeply satisfying about heading off into the woods with everything you need (hopefully...) strapped to your back. This was actually my first backpacking trip ever and I'm kind of embarrassed to say that. I've done plenty of hiking and car camping, but for some reason have never actually gone on an overnight backpacking trip. What was I thinking! Backpacking is awesome and now I'm hooked.

The trail that we chose for my first hike was a pretty easy one. Mostly flat, well-traveled, and easily done in 4 days. We had heard that the Enchanted Valley was, well, enchanting, and definitely a highlight of the Olympic Peninsula, so we decided to give it a try for Noah's birthday weekend. My plan was to make some trail bars for the hike, but two days before we were supposed to leave I got a nasty 24 hour bug and spent the next few days recovering. Needless to say, the trail bars didn't happen, but the following recipe for trail cookies will be on the snack list for next time.

I'm not going to narrate every step of our trip because that would make this a long and boring post, but here are the the highlights that we will remember:

- The gravel road. At the beginning and end of our trip we had to hike along a two mile stretch of gravel road to Grave's Creek Campground where the trailhead to the Enchanted Valley started. Winter storms had washed out a section of the road, making impassable by car. It was fine at the beginning, we had fresh legs. But on the last day those two miles were torture. We were exhausted from the 15 miles we had just hiked out from the valley and my footwear wasn't the best so my feet were on fire with blisters. Noah and I didn't talk for those two miles. The rest of the trip was great, though!

- Our first night was spent at Pyrites campsite after hiking in for about 13 miles. We were definitely glad that we stopped here instead of continuing on to the Valley because those last four miles on the second day were the prettiest and we wanted to see it in the morning light

- The forest! We weren't strangers to the Olympic Peninsula or National Park, but every time we go we're reminded of how beautiful it is. The old growth trees - firs, cedars, and hemlocks - are draped with lichen and the forest is intersperested with light-filled meadows and crystal clear streams. Berries are everywhere - blackberries, thimbleberries, huckleberries, blueberries... Enchanting indeed. The only drawback was that we didn't see any black bears. Almost every other hiker we talked to did :( 

- The blowdowns. Holy moly the blowdowns! At one point in the hike we came to the river and it looked like a massive giant had stormed through the valley. Huge trees were blown down in every direction over and in the river and the trail turned into an obstacle course. Thankfully, we weren't the first ones hiking in since the winter storms, so a nice path through and over the trees had already been established

- When we made it to the Valley and chalet on the second day, we opted to camp down by the river rather than up in the main campsite by the tree line. Our campsite was well equipped with a clothes line (noah carved some clothespins), a table made out of sun bleached wood from the riverbed and a tree stump for a base, and a some log benches next to the fire. It was a perfect setup and the privacy was great

- That first night in the Valley, right after collecting firewood, we were hit by a heavy downpour. We were just able to string up the tent footprint over the log benches as a tarp roof before the worst of the rain hit. We stayed mostly dry :) Thankfully we had started a fire before going to get firewood, so we had hot coals to work with when the rain came

- Showering under waterfalls = best showers ever. It was a bit of a trek to get to the thinly cascading waterfall on the other side of the Valley, but so worth the effort after a day of hiking and sweating profusely

- On our way out on the last day, we hiked most of the trail with a ranger who entertained us with stories of his time with the Park Service and Navy. When we were passing through the blowdown section, his radio chatter started going and we heard that someone in the trail crew working with chainsaws had been 'tagged'. We couldn't figure out what had happened until we rounded a bend and saw a section of the path blocked off. Apparently one of them had disturbed a hornet's nest and was stung multiple times. Yikes!

It was a short trip, but definitely a good one. I can't wait to set out and explore more trails and forests by foot with everything that we need strapped to our back. Including these trail cookies (recipe below)

// Trail Cookies // Makes 12 cookies
These cookies are everything a trail cookie should be: salty, sweet, not crumbly, covered in chocolate, and easily eaten by hand. Unfortunately these ones didn't make it on our hike to the Enchanted Valley because I came down with a nasty 24-hour bug two days before we left, but they will definitely be in our packs for the next trip. Or maybe before that... 

Dry ingredients
1 3/4 cups spelt flour
2/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup peanuts
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger

Wet ingredients
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
3 tablespoons water
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350°. In medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and mix well

2. In large bowl, stir together the ground flax seed and water and let sit five minutes. Add the remaining wet ingredients to the flax seeds and mix until well combined. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir until a dough has formed

3. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spoon or scoop 1/4 cup of dough onto the parchment paper about 1 inch apart (they won't spread much while baking). Flatten cookies into a round, disk shape. Bake cookies for 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack

Pumpkin Pie Spice Ice Cream

Pumpkin season is not over yet! I do realize that we posted pumpkin pie, then stuffed squash (kind of like pumpkin), and now pumpkin ice cream all in a row. But... I really like pumpkin and pumpkin pie flavored things. Especially ice cream. And lattes. Have you ever had pumpkin pie spice ice cream? I highly recommend it! This recipe doesn't actually have pumpkin in it (although I'm sure that would be delicious) but it has everything else a pumpkin pie filling needs: cream, eggs, milk, lots of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger... All freshly ground and steeped for at least 20 minutes. It's like eating a frozen pumpkin spice chai latte. Two of my favorite things! 

We made this ice cream on our trip to Sequim last month. But after we froze it we realized that we couldn't bring it home because it's a two hour trip back to Seattle including the ferry ride. So... we ate the whole batch in two days. Just kidding, we didn't really. But we made a pretty good dent in it! Next time we're in Sequim - hopefully around New Year's - we have dessert ready for us :)  ' 

// Pumpkin Pie Spice Ice Cream // makes about 2 pints
We made this ice cream with freshly ground spices and I highly recommend you do that too because they are so much better and more fragrant than pre-ground spices. It makes your whole kitchen smell like fall :) If you don't have a grinder your can use some elbow grease and pound the spices in a mortar and pestle until coarse. If that still doesn't sound like your thing you could use ground spices instead and reduce the amounts by half. I would still put them in some cheesecloth though. 

2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1 nutmeg, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons loose black tea

2 large egg yolks
1 pint heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 inch knob ginger, sliced thin

1. In a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder, grind the cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and peppercorns until coarse. Spoon the spices plus the black tea into small cloth spice bags or tie up in fine mesh cheesecloth

2. In the top bowl of a double boiler, whisk the egg yolks until they are smooth. Heat the yolks over medium heat, whisking frequently, until they start to thicken and turn a deeper yellow - about 5 minutes. This can happen really quickly, so be watchful! Slowly add the heavy cream and milk and whisk until the yolks are fully incorporated. Add the sugars and continue to cook until sugar is completely melted. Stir in vanilla, ginger, and spice bags. Remove ice cream base from double boiler and let stand for 20 minutes.

3. After 30 minutes, remove ginger and spice bags (or strain in fine mesh strainer) and transfer ice cream base to fridge.  Let cool completely

4. Pour base into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions

Pumpkin Pie with Bourbon Crumble and Cinnamon Whipped Cream

It's pumpkin pie season! Which means it's almost Thanksgiving and Noah and I haven't made any plans other than making pumpkin pie. I'm such a good planner when it comes to some things (planning my day, planning vacations, planning what's for dinner), but when it comes to holidays I'm the worst. Maybe it's because I'm just hoping they'll plan themselves. Last year I waited until the last two weeks before Christmas to start Christmas shopping. NOT doing that again!  

This pumpkin pie is the best pumpkin pie I've ever made. Seriously. I feel like I recently mastered pie crusts and the secret ingredient is sour cream. You can't taste the sour cream in the baked crust, but it definitely makes it more tender and flaky. And the filling for this pie is what all pumpkin pie fillings should be: rich, smooth, creamy, and full of pumpkin pie spice. Plus there's bourbon and nothing can go wrong if there's bourbon in it. 

The crumble topping and cinnamon whipped cream really make this pie sing, though. Noah and I almost ate all of the crumble before it even went on top of the pie! I'm not usually a big fan of whipped cream (I know, I'm weird), but match it with a heavy dash of cinnamon and I'm sold. We had to make the whipped cream in our food processor, which worked ok, because we still haven't received our hard-won stand-up mixer! Grrrr.  

A final note. I'm made these pies in four different cast iron skillets because 1) I've never made pie in a cast iron skillet before and I wanted to try it out and 2) Noah thought it would be a good picture. One downfall is that a couple of the pie crusts took on the "meaty" flavor of the cast iron seasoning. Soooo, if you do decide to make it in your cast iron, scrub it with salt or use a brand new one.  

// Pumpkin Pie with Bourbon Crumble and Cinnamon Whipped Cream //  Makes two 9" pies
This pie is amazing! Seriously. The crust is flaky and crisp and the pumpkin filling is boldly spiced with loads of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg. I can safely say that this is the best pumpkin pie I've ever made. The bourbon is optional, but if you're on the fence I definitely recommend adding it in because it gives the pie and crumble topping an extra zing. You may have some extra pie crust to play with, depending on how deep your pie dish is. Use it for decorations or bake some pie crust cookies. 

For the crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sour cream
12 tablespoons frozen butter
8-10 tablespoons ice water

For the pumpkin filling:
6 lb pie pumpkins (about 3 small)
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
6 eggs
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup bourbon

For the bourbon crumble:
1 1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teasppon salt
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
4 tablespoons bourbon

For the cinnamon whipped cream:
1 pint heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Pinch of salt

1. For the crust, mix together the flours, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Have ready the sour cream and ice water. Cut the frozen butter into 1/4 inch pieces and add to the flour mixture. Using your fingers (or a pastry cutter) rub the butter into the flour. The butter may seem really hard at first, but keep at it, it'll soften up! Eventually, the butter should be the size and shape (i.e. flattened) of your thumbnail. Mix 8 tablespoons of ice water into the sour cream, then dribble the liquid into the flour mixture, stirring the flour mixture constantly with a fork. The dough will start to come together into a ragged mess. If it seems really dry, at another tablespoon or two of ice water, then dump out onto a clean surface and knead a few times to bring the dough together. Tip: fold the dough in half as you knead to make layers of butter that will result in a flakier crust. Cut the dough in half and shape each half into a flattened disc. Wrap the pieces in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. 

1. To make the filling, preheat oven to 350°. Cut the pumpkin(s) in half and scoop out seeds. Place halves hollow side down on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour. While the pumpkin(s) are cooking, combine the heavy cream, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk until well combined and set aside. When pumpkin(s) are done, remove them from oven and let cool. When they are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a food processor. Blend the pumpkin until very smooth, about 10 minutes, scraping down sides as needed. Measure out 4 cups of pumpkin and place into a large cooking pot. Add the sugar, maple syrup, salt, and spices. Cook pumpkin mixture, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes over medium-low heat until most of the pumpkin liquid has been evaporated. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream/egg mixture. Stir in the bourbon. Set aside until needed.

3. To make the crumble mix together the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and pecan in a medium bowl. Melt the butter, then add the butter and bourbon to the oat mixture. Stir until well combined and set aside. 

4. Butter two 9" pie pans. Remove one disc of dough from the fridge and roll it out on a well floured surface until it is large enough to cover the bottom of the pie dish with 1 inch left over around the rim. Transfer the dough to the pie dish and trim any excess dough. Fold the outside edges of the dough under itself then crimp it along the edge of the pie plate to seal. Repeat for the second pie. Fill both pie crusts with baking stones or beans wrapped in tin foil to prevent the bottoms from puffing up and ruining your crusts. (This is not optional). Bake at 350° for 15-18 minutes or until golden, but not browned. 

5. Remove pie crusts from oven and take out stones or beans. Pour the filling evenly into both crusts. Top with oat crumble. You can use the extra dough to make decorative designs if you wish. 

6. Bake pies at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until mostly set, but middle still jiggles a bit. Remove from oven and let cool completely.  

7. To make the whipped cream, mix together the cream, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and salt using a food processor, hand mixer, or stand-up mixer. The mixture should for "firm peaks".

8. Serve pumpkin pie with a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream. Mmmmmm.

Salted Chocolate Fudge

Deeply chocolately with a zing salt, this fudge is ridiculously good. So good that it won Honorable Mention in a recent recipe contest. I actually developed the recipe by accident. I was attempting to make a chocolate pot de creme, but when the chocolate cooled, it hardened more than anticipated and become a decadent chocolate fudge instead. No complaints there. Noah, unfortunately (fortunately?) wasn't able to help me polish these off. You see, he hasn't eaten chocolate for almost 20 years. One day when he was 13 or 14 he decided that he was simply going to give up chocolate (!). I have no idea how he 1. has made it that long and 2. didn't sneak a bite while taking these scrumptious pictures. Or maybe he did... I don't know, I wasn't home... Anyway this fudge is good. I savored it as an after lunch treat almost every day at work until it was gone and I'm contemplating making more. Last time I did a touch of cayenne powder, but it would also be good with other spices like cinnamon, chipotle, or ginger. What's your favorite chocolate pairing?     

// Salted Chocolate Fudge // makes enough for 1-20 depending on your affinity for chocolate
I like my chocolate dark, as in 70, 80, or 90% cacao, so this fudge is not for the milk-chocolate lovers. You can try using a lower cacao chocolate (such as 60%) if you want a milder fudge or add another tablespoon or two of sugar to balance out the bitterness. You can also play with some add-ins such as nuts, seeds, spices, etc... to get unique flavor combos. Or not... it's pretty darn good as it is.   

10 ounces 70% chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight and drained
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup half and half or non-dairy creamer
1-2 tablespoons cane sugar, depending on how sweet you want it
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon or less cayenne pepper or other spice for flavoring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder for dusting, optional

1. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate over medium heat

2. While the chocolate is melting, pulse the cashews in a food processor or high speed blender until mostly smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Let sit until chocolate is ready 

3. When the chocolate is melted, add the coconut oil and whisk until fully incorporated. Whisk in the half and half (or non-dairy creamer), vanilla extract, cane sugar, salt, and cayenne or other spice. Let cook for another 1-2 minutes or until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat.

4. Pour the chocolate mixture into the food processor or high speed blender with the cashews. Process until very smooth, about 4-5 minutes. 

5. Optional: strain the chocolate through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl, stirring continuously to speed up the process. This will result in a smoother fudge

6. Pour the chocolate into ramekins, porcelain cups, or a glass bread loaf pan. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 4 hours. 

7. When chocolate has set, loosen the edges of the chocolate by running a butter knife along the edges. Invert the ramekins or baking dish to dislodge the fudge. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces and dust with cocoa powder

Olive Oil Ice Cream with Lemon and Thyme

Have you ever tried olive oil ice cream? I hadn't either until I came up with the idea for a recipe contest (disclaimer: I probably won't be shutting up about recipe contests for awhile, so bear with me...) We've made many batches of ice cream over the past two years, some have turned out incredibly well and others, well, have not. This one, though, may just be our new favorite. Move over Salted Caramel! Noah and I often joke that we should start another blog called Ice Cream and Cocktails since we obviously have an affinity for the first and if you indulge in ice cream, why not indulge in cocktails too? It's a win-win situation. Unfortunately the powers that be would probably revoke my nutritionist license. Sigh. 

But getting back to the olive oil ice cream. You must try it. The olive oil lends a slight grassy taste that's subtle but intriguing and the lemon and thyme give it more of an 'ice cream flavor', if that makes sense. If we were talking sushi, the olive oil would be the umami taste. I wonder how sushi ice cream would be?   

We ended up straining some of the lemon zest and thyme out of the ice cream base before freezing it, but next time I think I'd leave all the little bits in. They add a nice texture (unless you're a super smooth texture kind of person) and they deliver extra awesome flavor to each bite. I'm not joking when I say this ice cream is amazing. Who would have thought olive oil could be so delicious frozen? And the possibilities are endless! An olive oil-pistachio-orange ice cream... olive oil-rosemary brittle ice cream.... olive oil-marzipan-chip ice cream... I could go on and on!

//Olive Oil Ice Cream with Lemon and Thyme// Makes 2 pints
The trickiest part of this recipe is to not let the egg yolks turn into scrambled eggs. As soon as they start to turn a deeper golden brown and start to firm or gel, add the olive oil and begin whisking. If you do see bits of cooked egg in the finished ice cream base, strain them out before adding the lemon zest and thyme. As I mentioned above, ice cream recipes are completely adaptable. If you're not into lemon and thyme, try another Mediterranean-inspired flavor combination!  

2 cups half and half (1 pint)
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks at room temperature
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Zest of two lemons
Generous tablespoon fresh thyme, roughly chopped

1. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl or the sink with cold water and adding ice cubes

2. Combine the half and half, milk, and vanilla in a medium bowl or measuring cup

3. Set up a double boiler: fill a large pot with about 2 inches of water. Place another metal pot or bowl over the first one so that it sits nicely on the rim without touching the water underneath. See this link for more details on how to set up a double boiler http://www.thekitchn.com/double-boilers-what-are-they-a-132018

4. Bring the water in the bottom pot to a gentle boil (no roiling boils please). Add the egg yolks to the top bowl and whisk until the yolks are runny. Continue whisking until the yolks start to gel and turn a deeper golden color, about 1-2 minutes. If they turn into scrambled eggs, wash out the bowl and try again :)

5. Slowly pour the olive oil into the eggs, whisking continuously, then add the sugar and salt and whisk until combined. Slowly add the milk mixture, whisking continuously. Cook mixture for another 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and thyme. Place the bowl in the prepared ice bath and let cool completely. Once chilled, pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers instructions. Store in a freeze-safe container.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

I love having a blog! It means you get to eat ice cream at 10:00 in the morning!
— Becky

We're serious about ice cream in this house. We often have 4, 5, or 6 open pints of ice cream in our freezer - home churned and locally made (we like them and them). Some may call it an addiction, but we just chalk it up to market research. Besides, who doesn't love ice cream? I had always (wrongly) believed that ice cream making is something too difficult or too time consuming to make at home; it was one of those things that I always bought at the grocery store without a thought of trying to make it myself. Then Noah introduced me to his ice cream maker - a simple turquoise blue machine that only has one button: on and off. We started with coconut milk ice cream (why?) and then graduated to the real deal with each batch turing out better and better. Salted caramel has been the ice cream fad for the past year or so and we spent many hours in the kitchen trying to perfect our own version, testing each batch against the last. Finally, I think we perfected it. It has just the right balance of saltiness to sweetness and the caramel flavor is strong, but not overpowering. If' you've never tried to make ice cream I recommend you go out right now out and buy an ice cream machine. You'll thank me later.      

// Salted Carmel Ice Cream // Makes ~ 2 pints
Too salty, too caramely, too thick, too thin... So far, this recipe has been the hardest for us to perfect. We made the first batches using non-homogenized milk, which left a lingering film in our mouths due to the separation of the fat. Substituting homogenized (but still organic) milk fixed that problem. The other ingredient we battled was the salt. We found that a little goes a long way.  The difference between 1 1/2 and 2 teaspoons was the difference between just right and way too salty.  So, don't think it doesn't sound like too much; trust us, it is. We used salted butter too, which you can replace with unsalted if you are sensitive to salty things. 

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter (salted if you really like salt)
1/4 cup heavy cream

Ice Cream:
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cup whole milk (homogenized)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks

1. Heat the sugar in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. It will take a few minutes for the sugar to start to melt

2. Once the sugar is melted into a syrupy liquid, add the salt and butter. Stir until incorporated and then add the heavy cream, stirring continuously. The mixture will seize up a bit and bubble frantically, but will eventually die down

3. Continue to cook the caramel over low heat for another 10-15 minutes until slightly reduced and the color resembles what you think of when you imagine caramels. Turn the heat off and start on ice cream

4. For the ice cream, combine the heavy cream, whole milk, and vanilla in a large a measuring cup or bowl with a lip/spout

5. Set up a double boiler and turn heat up to medium. If you don't know what that means, read about it here

6. Once the water in the double boiler is at a low boil, add the egg yolks to the top saucepan and whisk until runny. Cook the egg yolks until they start to gel slightly, but don't make scrambled eggs. The best way I can describe it is that the yolks turn a darker golden yellow and become a little firmer

7. When the yolks start gelling, add the cream mixture slowly. You want to add about 1/2 a cup at a time in the beginning, whisking continously and letting the milk warm up before adding more. It should take about 7-8 minutes to add all of the cream mixture

8. Once the cream is incorporated, whisk in the caramel, making sure you scrape the pot to get every last bit! If your caramel has cooled too much and turned into a hard, sticky mess, simply heat it up again

9. Transfer the mixture to the fridge or an ice bath and cool completely. Then pour into an ice cream maker and make ice cream :)