A Dash of This

Ambrosia with Coconut Mascarpone Cream

Olivia CooperComment
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Anyone else relieved January is over? I’m not much for resolutions or detoxes, so January always feels to me like a steep plummet from the cheer and gluttony of the holidays. As you can probably tell, I rely on plenty of treats, coffee and other “hygge” things to get me through.

Although I approach resolutions half-heartedly, I enjoy taking a little time for self-reflection at the start of each year, to think about the highs and lows of the last year and what I'd like to accomplish in the next one. Admittedly, one of those things is to stop worring about where I think I should be and focus on where I actually want to be. OK, to be honest this occurs to me every year. But in the words of the wise and beautiful Kylie Jenner, I’ve got a feeling this is gonna be “the year of like, realizing stuff.”

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One of the ways I started the year was by making an old dessert new again. If you haven’t heard of ambrosia, you’re not alone. I googled this dessert to see what images are out there, and what I found were mostly pictures of “dessert salads” – masses of whipped cream, canned orange segments, marshmallows and maraschino cherries – not the stuff of my childhood.

When I was little, my granny used to make ambrosia in winter and early spring, when Florida oranges and grapefruits were in season. It's deceptively simple and delicious on its own or spooned over yogurt, or pound cake, or a pavlova … the possibilities are pretty much endless.

My updated version is served over a coconut mascarpone cream, topped with fresh coconut and toasted pistachios. In other words, it tastes like you're floating on a tropical, coconut cloud while sipping Mai Tais. Just the kind of respite we all need in the dead of winter.

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Ambrosia

2 navel oranges
2 blood oranges or tangerines
1 pink grapefruit
Honey to taste

Coconut Mascarpone Cream

16 oz. (2 cups) mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup coconut cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 scant tbsp caster sugar

Toppings

1 fresh coconut or unsweetened coconut flakes
toasted, unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped

To make the coconut mascarpone, combine the mascarpone, coconut cream, vanilla and sugar in a medium bow. Using a hand mixer, beat on medium speed until smooth. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the ambrosia, use a sharp knife to remove the skin and pith from the oranges and grapefruit. Cut between the membranes to segment each fruit, letting the slices fall into a bowl. Drizzle with honey.

If using fresh coconut, remove the shell and, using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin. Shave thin slices of coconut with the peeler.

When ready to serve, spoon the mascarpone mixture into individual bowls. Top with the citrus segments, followed by coconut shavings and a sprinkle of toasted pistachios.

 

Bourbon Spiced Hot Chocolate

Olivia CooperComment
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While the Florida panhandle isn’t exactly known for harsh winters, we catch a chill every now and then. And when we do, I embrace it wholeheartedly. This weekend, I’m excited to say we’re expecting low temps in the thirties, just in time for Christmas! A blazing fire will be in order, furry slippers, a cat on my lap and this spiced hot chocolate.

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Ingredients:

For the hot chocolate:
3 1/2 cups whole milk
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 cinnamon stick
4 oz. milk chocolate
4 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 oz. bourbon (optional)

For the whipped cream, if using:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
One heaping teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
About 1/8 of a teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

To make the hot chocolate, in a medium pan, heat 1 cup of the milk with 3 tablespoons cocoa powder over medium-low heat. Whisk until no lumps remain.

Add the cinnamon stick and remaining 2 1/2 cups of milk and bring to a simmer. Roughly chop the chocolate and add to the warm milk mixture, along with the sugar. Stir gently until the chocolate melts completely and the mixture is just below a boil.

If using bourbon, pour the desired amount into a mug and ladle in hot chocolate. Top with whipped cream if desired (recipe below).

To make the whipped cream, pour the cream into a clean, medium-sized bowl. Then, using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the cream on high speed until the cream begins to thicken. When you see ripples start to form, stop the mixer and add confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon. Continue to beat on high speed until medium peaks form. Do not overwhip.

Note: It's unlikely, but if you end up with any leftover whipped cream, don’t let it go to waste! Save it in the refrigerator and dollop your coffee the next morning.

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Raspberry Rose Sablés

Olivia CooperComment
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And just like that it’s Christmastime! It’s always my favorite season, but this year I feel like I’m getting a bit of a late start. For me, it doesn’t feel like Christmas until I’ve spent the day in the kitchen, up to my elbows in cookie dough, while a Christmas movie marathon plays in the background. As I’ve been scrolling through Instagram and flipping through my cookbooks, I’ve got a running list of cookie recipes I’m itching to try! But I might have to narrow it down for my sanity.

So, I’ll start with these raspberry rose sablés. They’re light and buttery with a hint of rose and bright berry flavors. And while they’re not the most traditional Christmas cookie (truthfully, these are a great choice any time of year), they’re delightfully festive and sure to impress at your next cookie swap. Also, I’m not the best at piping delicate designs, so I’m a fan of anything that requires only a quick dunk in glaze to look pretty. Don’t worry about making them perfect – mine never seem to come out in a perfect round shape, but we’ll just call them rustic.

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Ingredients:

For the cookies:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
4 tbsp. rosewater (or rose extract)
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

For the Glaze:
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2-3 tsp. raspberry powder (If you can’t find raspberry powder, you can make it by grinding freeze-dried raspberries and sifting out the seeds)
4-6 tbsp. buttermilk
Dried rose petals (optional)

Directions:

To make the sablés, combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Combine the butter and both sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on low speed until smooth.

Add the egg and beat on medium speed until just incorporated, then add the yolk and beat until smooth. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the rosewater, 1 tablespoon at a time, tasting after each addition. Depending on the rosewater you use, you may not need the entire 4 tablespoons. If you are using rose extract, start with 1 teaspoon. Beat on low speed until blended. Then, slowly add the flour mixture; beat on low speed just until incorporated.

Transfer half the dough to a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper and roll into a log, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Repeat with other half of the dough. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or up to 5 days.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Unwrap the first dough log and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Arrange them on the baking sheets, spaced at least 1 inch apart. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cookie edges are just golden. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze, whisk the confectioners’ sugar and 2 teaspoons of the raspberry powder in a large bowl. Gradually at the buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition until smooth. The mixture should fall off the whisk in a thick ribbon.

To decorate, dip the tops of the sablés in the glaze and place on a wire rack. If using, sprinkle or place dried rose petals on the glazed sables. Let the glaze set before serving.

Mulled Wine

Olivia CooperComment
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On frosty winter nights, there’s nothing quite like cozying up by the fire with a cup of piping hot mulled wine. It’s holiday cheer in a glass, and just one sip will make you feel like a character in a Dickens novel. I usually use two bottles of wine because one never seems enough, but this recipe can be halved or doubled depending on the size of your crowd. Fair warning: I usually hit my limit after two glasses of regular wine, but this stuff is so warm and comforting you might forget how many you've had. Serve with a snuggly blanket and your favorite version of A Christmas Carol.

Note: When I can’t find cardamom pods or I don't have fresh ginger root on hand, I use ground cardamom seeds or ground ginger instead. I’m not sure if this is technically OK, but it seems to work just fine.

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Ingredients:

2 bottles inexpensive red wine (such as Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick, plus more for garnish (if desired)
8 cloves
4 cardamom pods
3-4 slices fresh ginger, about 1/8" thick
2 oranges
1 lemon
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup Cognac

Directions:

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the lemon and oranges in wide strips, avoiding the white pith. Reserve the peels of one orange for garnish. Combine the wine, spices, ginger, lemon peels, and remaining orange peels in a large saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to a simmer. Add the honey 1/4 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until dissolved and tasting to determine if more sweetness is needed. Depending on the wine you use, you may not need to add all 3/4 cup. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and add the Cognac. Serve warm with your desired garnishes.

Brown Butter Cardamom Ice Cream and Apple Galette

Olivia CooperComment
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Thanksgiving is the day I look forward to all year because all that’s required is to gather and eat. A day dedicated to food, family and socially-accepted laziness – what could be better? And the best part? Always dessert.

This cardamom spiced brown butter ice cream has quickly become a favorite fall sweet treat. It’s perfect on its own, with espresso, or with just about any holiday dessert. This thanksgiving, I’m serving it over an apple galette, the perfect pairing with a scoop of buttery, caramel-y, spiced ice cream. Save a few scoops for breakfast (if you can make it last until then) and treat yourself to the perfect affogato.

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For the Ice Cream

Ingredients:
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
6 large egg yolks
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom, plus extra for dusting (optional)

Directions:

Melt butter in small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook until butter turns dark amber, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes (be careful not to burn). Pour into a small bowl, leaving the dark sediment in the saucepan. Set aside to cool.

Bring the cream and milk to a simmer in large saucepan. Whisk egg yolks, sugar, and salt in large bowl until thick and well blended. Add brown butter; whisk to blend. Pour a small amount of the cream mixture into the yolk mixture while whisking. Then gradually whisk the rest of the cream into the yolk mixture. Return the custard to same saucepan. Then, using a wooden spoon, gently stir the mixture while it heats until it coats the back of a spoon and holds its shape when you draw your finger through it, about 5 minutes. Strain custard into large bowl. Stir in the vanilla and cardamom. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Once chilled, pour ice cream into your ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a freezer-proof container and allow to freeze until firm.

 

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For the galette

Ingredients:
1 batch of chilled pie dough, enough for a double-crust pie
4 to 6 medium to large apples (preferably Honeycrisp or Pink Lady)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1-2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into tiny pieces
1 egg
A splash of cold milk or water
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
2 tbsp. apricot jam

Directions:

Start by rolling out your dough into a rough rectangle, about 12 by 18 inches. Then, transfer to a parchment-lined half sheet pan. Move the pan to the refrigerator while you prepare the apples.

Quarter and core the apples, then thinly slice the apple quarters. Keep the slices in groups.

Remove the pan from the fridge, then arrange the apples on the dough however you’d like, leaving a border of about 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Dust the apple slices evenly with the granulated sugar, then arrange the tiny pieces of butter evenly on top of the apples. Carefully fold the edges of the dough over the apples.

For the egg wash, lightly beat the egg and a splash of cold milk or water. Brush the dough with the egg mixture. Then, sprinkle the dough with the turbinado sugar.

Preheat the oven to 400°F degrees and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Bake for 40-55 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. While the galette cools, warm the apricot jam in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave until it liquified. Brush the apples with a thin coating of jam.

Fraisé Fizz Cocktail

Olivia CooperComment

The calendar may say the start of fall is a few days away, but it still feels like summer here in Florida. And although I'm usually chomping at the bit for fall festivities, this year I find myself not quite ready to say goodbye to summer. Maybe it's because this year it seemed to fly by all too quickly and I'm not sure I took advantage as much as a could have of my favorite summer-y activities – most of which involve sitting on a back porch somewhere with a rosé cocktail.

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Cue the fraisé fizz cocktail. Not to be confused with frozé, the fraisé fizz combines fresh strawberries (ou fraises) and a crisp rosé with floral Pimm's and dry gin. The result is a bright, slightly sweet and a little tart, refreshing concoction. What better way to toast the end of summer?

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Ingredients:

2-3 fresh strawberries, plus extra for garnish
1 lemon
Crushed ice
1 tablespoon strawberry syrup (I used Blackberry Patch, but any brand or homemade will do)
4 ounces dry rosé
1 ounce Pimm’s
1 ounce dry British gin, such as Boodles
Sparkling water
1 orange twist

Directions:

In a cocktail shaker, gently muddle the strawberries and a squeeze of lemon juice. Fill the shaker with ice and add the strawberry syrup, rosé, Pimm's and gin. Shake vigorously and strain into an ice-filled glass. Top with sparking water. Pinch the orange twist over the drink, add it to the glass and garnish with half a strawberry.

Mini Lemon Blueberry Éclairs

Olivia CooperComment

Éclairs are one of my favorite desserts to make when I want to feel a little fancy. I also find that people are super impressed when you serve up a batch. They’ll say things like “omg you made these?” And you can humbly soak up the compliments. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients – éclairs are surprisingly much easier to make than they seem. And how could something so cute and mini be intimidating?

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These mini éclairs are a decadent, out-of-the-everyday treat to serve for dessert (or breakfast or lunch, in my case). I love the combination of blueberry and lemon in the summer, but you can always make the pastry cream without lemon or substitute your favorite berry in the ganache.

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Ingredients:

For the choux:
Recipe from Williams Sonoma. Yields about two dozen mini batons.
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

For the lemon pastry cream:
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon lemon zest
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

For the blueberry white chocolate ganache:
1 cup fresh blueberries, plus extra for decorating
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
6 ounces white chocolate

Directions:

First, make the choux. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line two sheet pans with parchment.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the milk, water, butter and salt and bring to a full boil. When the butter melts, remove the pan from the heat, add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until blended. Return the pan to medium heat and continue stirring until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Remove from the heat and let cool for 3 to 4 minutes, or to 140°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk 1 of the eggs. When the batter has cooled, add the egg and beat with the spoon until incorporated. Whisk each of the remaining eggs one at a time, then stir into the batter. After each egg is added, the mixture will separate and appear shiny but will return to a smooth paste with vigorous beating. Let the paste cool for about 10 minutes before shaping.

To shape mini batons, fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain tip and fill the bag with the paste. Pipe out logs 3 inches long and 3/4 inch wide. Space the logs at least 2 inches apart.

Bake the batons for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375°F and continue baking until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes more.

Remove from the oven and immediately prick the side of each baton with the tip of a sharp knife. Return to the oven, leave the oven door open and allow the pastries to dry out for 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let the pastries cool completely on the pans before filling.

For the lemon pastry cream, start by bringing the milk and lemon zest to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, combine the egg yolks, sugar and flour in a medium bowl. Once the milk mixture has come to a simmer, slowly pour a small amount into the yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Continue tempering the yolks with the milk mixture. Then, return the mixture to the saucepan and whisk constantly over medium-low heat until smooth and thick. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter. Whisk in the vanilla and lemon juice. Transfer the pastry cream to a clean bowl and lay a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Once it has cooled, transfer to a piping bag with a very small round tip.

For the blueberry white chocolate ganache, combine the blueberries and sugar in a saucepan and set over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the blueberries begin to burst and the mixture is a syrup-like consistency. Transfer the blueberry mixture to a food processor and process until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.

Strain the blueberries through a fine mesh strainer. You don't want to have the skins of the berries in the ganache, just the juices. Set aside to cool.

Roughly chop the white chocolate and place in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Once the cream has reached a simmer, pour over the white chocolate pieces and immediately cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand for about 10 minutes to allow the cream to melt the chocolate. Remove the plastic wrap and gently whisk until smooth. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of the blueberry syrup to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool.

Once the ganache is firm, using a hand mixer whip the ganache for a few minutes until it increases in volume and is lighter in color. The whipped ganache can be stored in the refrigerator until it is ready to be used.

To fill the éclairs, gently use a toothpick to create a small hole on each end of the éclairs. Using a pastry bag fitted with a medium-size plain tip, gently pipe the custard into either end of the eclairs, using only just enough to fill the inside Repeat this process until all of the éclairs are filled.

Using a small offset spatula or butter knife, spread a dollop of the ganache onto each éclair. To decorate the éclairs, roll just-washed blueberries in sugar. Top each éclair with a sugared blueberry. Serve immediately. 

Make ahead tip: The choux can be made in advance and kept in the freezer for up to one month until ready to thaw and be filled. The pastry cream and ganache can be made up to a day in advance and kept in the refrigerator until time to fill and decorate the pastries.