Thursday, December 29, 2011

Champagne sorbet

I always forget how much I like sorbet.  I can almost remember the first time I had a lemon sorbet; at the time, I thought it was the best frozen thing I had ever tasted.  For a while, it was the only thing I would order when I went to an ice cream parlor.  But...I hate to be boring and predictable so I stopped ordering it.  (Although, I must say, with as much of an ice cream snob as I am, I really should stick to ordering sorbets and/or sherbets when I'm out...)

When I'm contemplating what fabulous frozen concoction I'm going to make next, sorbet is so easy to overlook.  I mean, at it's core, sorbet is basically made from sweetened water flavored with fruit or some sort of alcohol (y'know, like champagne...), among other things; it just seems so...plain.  And with all the different flavors of ice cream just calling my name to be made , how could I not push sorbet to the back of the line?  But in its simplicity lies an understated elegance that lets the flavors shine through clean and clear.  There's no eggs or dairy to dilute the flavor.  

This champagne sorbet is no exception.  At it's very core, it is an elegant dessert.  Yet, it's not very fussy.  There are only 4 ingredients and it's fairly simple to make.  You do need a bit of advanced planning in that you have to make the simple syrup and have it (and the champagne - can't forget that) chilled before you can freeze the mixture in the ice cream machine.  But even that isn't too hard.  I made mine one night, stuck it in the fridge along with the champagne, and then processed the sorbet the next day.

One last point in favor of making this sorbet. Because it's made with champagne and has alcohol, it doesn't freeze super solid.  It's absolutely perfect for New Year's party prep because you can make it ahead of time and not have to worry about it being a solid block of frozen sorbet.

I'm sure this can be made alcohol free, using an appropriate substitute, but I haven't tried it.  Let me know if you do.

Champagne Sorbet
Adapted from Ice Cream Ireland

Makes about 1 quart


330 gr (~ 1 3/8 cup) sugar
500 ml (~2 1/8 cup) water
250 ml (~1 cup) Champagne
75-100 ml (1/4 - 1/3 cup) lemon juice*


Bring sugar and water to boil the water and stir in the sugar, until it is completely dissolved.  Cool completely.  Stir in the champagne and just enough lemon to offset the sweetness.  Freeze according to your manufacturer's instructions.

Serve it in champagne glasses garnished with strawberries.  Or, if you want to be extra fancy, put a small scoop in a champagne flute and then top it off with champagne and garnish with strawberries.

Go easy on the lemon, but also don't be afraid of it.  Taste as you go, and make sure it doesn’t overpower the champagne.  I initially added about 2 tablespoons.   I had to process my sorbet in two batches.  After the first batch came out, I added a smidge more (maybe 2 teaspoons) and I was much happier with the overall flavor.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pumpkin cheesecake ice cream and pumpkin pillow cheesecake cookies

Pumpkin season may technically be over for us foodies, but I bet you still have a few cans of pumpkin in your cabinet. No?  Just me?

Well, you should definitely go pick up a can for these recipes because they are definitely worth it.

The pumpkin cheesecake ice cream is rich, but not too rich, and surprisingly smooth and creamy despite not having any egg yolks.  There's a small kick of lemon that is just enough to cut the sweetness from being too sweet.

The main event here, though, is the cookies.  They could best be described as little pillows of pumpkin cookie with cheesecake stuffed inside.  The cookies are definitely labor intensive, but the steps are relatively simple and easy.  However, don't let that stop you as everyone who has tasted them says they are the best cookie they have ever had.

I love the lighting on the edges of the top cookie.

Pumpkin cheesecake ice cream 
adapted from Desserts for Breakfast, who adapted it from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop

I like my cheesecake bit on the lemon-ier side and I'm not a fan of super aggressively spiced things, so I went light on the spices here.  Feel free to increase the spices to your preference.

Makes about 1 quart


7 oz cream cheese
3 oz (approximately 1/3 cup) pumpkin puree
zest of 1 lemon*
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice


Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Chill mixture thoroughly in the fridge, then freeze it in your ice cream maker of choice.

1. I didn't have lemon zest, so I used 3/16 teaspoon of lemon oil.  Lemon extract could be used, as well.
2. Or use 2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice to replace all the spices.

Not the best lighting, but one of the better pictures of the filling.

Pumpkin pillow cookies with cheesecake filling
adapted from Oatmeal Cookie and Libby's via VeryBestBaking

Many thanks to my baking buddy, Eliz, for recipe testing and help with the "stuffing" method.

These cookies taste just like pumpkin cheesecake!  Again, you can taste the spices, but they are mild.  If you find that you like things to taste more pumpkin-y, then definitely increase the spices.


4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cookie dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour  
1 teaspoon baking soda  
1 teaspoon baking powder  
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Add the filling ingredients to a small bowl and mix well.  Let the mixture chill in the refrigerator until ready to assemble. 

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt in medium bowl. Beat sugar and butter in large mixer bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Once dough is mixed, chill in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes.

Just before you take the dough out of the fridge, preheat oven to 350° F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper (which is what I did). 

To form the cookies: Place 1 tablespoon of dough on the cookie sheet.  Make an indent in the middle and add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of filling. Place another tablespoon of dough on top.  Seal the edges as necessary and roll into balls.  Put the stuffed dough balls in the freezer for 5 minutes to firm up.

Place the chilled dough balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.