book review, recipe

Jane of Austin + Earl Grey Ice Cream

Though I read Pride and Prejudice in high school and loved it, I haven’t explored Jane Austen beyond that. I own copies of both Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility, but have yet to crack them open! (I know, I know…) So, when I was given the opportunity to read Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility through Blogging for Books, I didn’t want to pass it up. After all, it’s about tea, which I love, and it seemed like it would be a nice modern dip into another Austen classic.

Jane and her sister Celia own a successful, adorable tea shop in San Francisco. But after being forced out, they head to their cousins in Texas with their younger sister Margot in tow, hoping to start afresh and recreate their tea shop magic there. Of course, Texas brings new men and intrigue, triumphs and defeats. I can’t compare it to the original, but I recognized a lot of Austen-style plot points, and of course, the sisterly bond can’t be missed. It was a breezy, enjoyable read, perfect for summer.

Probably the best of all was that this is the novel that finally led me to ice cream, completely unexpectedly. It was sheer inspiration! Definitive proof I shouldn’t try to force it, and excellent news that I can officially-officially forever be done with The Country of Ice Cream Star.  Though the book included several recipes throughout, none of them were exactly what I was looking for. I really thought a tea-based dessert would be lovely, and given the heat of the summer, I settled on Earl Grey Ice Cream.

First, I combined the whole milk, half and half and sugar in a medium saucepan. Once that seemed heated through – but wasn’t boiling, I added my 6 Earl Grey tea bags and allowed them to steep for 20 minutes with the cover on. I stirred it approximately every 7 minutes, though you may not need to be that precise.

I removed the tea bags and turned the heat up again. In a small bowl, I whisked together 5 egg yolks and vanilla extract. When the milk mixture was warmed, I took 2 Tablespoons and added it to the eggs, whisking constantly. After about 10 seconds, I added another 2 Tablespoons, whisked and repeated. After the ratios were roughly equal (or four times), I added the milk mixture into the eggs and whisked until it was all combined.

Then, I returned the mixture to the saucepan, cooking it over medium heat, while stirring constantly. I was slightly terrified it would burn, but with constant vigilance (and scraping the bottom and the sides), it all worked out. Once it thickened somewhat – and could coat the back of a wooden spoon – I poured it into a large, wide bowl through a fine strainer. I set the bowl in the fridge to cool, uncovered.

After it had sat for a little while and was no longer steaming, I added plastic wrap. It might not be necessary, but I didn’t want to create condensation.

This was the first time I got to use the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid mixer – woo hoo! The directions require you to have it freeze for at least 15 hours beforehand, which I maybe should have read prior to letting my custard mixture chill for 8 hours. Good to know for next time!

Once the ice cream bowl was frozen enough, I set to work. (You should follow your own ice cream maker’s instructions from this point forward.) I turned the mixer to Stir and began adding the custard-y liquid to the bowl, which was a little more complicated than I would’ve liked, but luckily, spilling was minimal.

The whole process after that was very easy. I let it Stir and work itself into ice cream over the next 30 minutes, only checking in on it out of curiosity and for pictures.

Once it was finished, I scraped the ice cream into my insulated ice cream container and allowed it to freeze for another 2 hours. (Seriously, ice cream making is not for the impatient… If you want ice cream in a hurry, run to the store instead.)

It looked pretty good coming out of the freezer after (almost) two hours (if I’m being honest), but my patience was undergoing a major test, and after two days in the making, I was ready to dig in!

I took two scoops and couldn’t be more excited to give it a taste. It’s definitely tea-flavored, so if you’re not a fan, this probably isn’t for you. But I loved it! The ice cream did my favorite tea justice, and I think Jane Woodward would be proud.

Earl Grey Ice Cream

  • Servings: 3-5
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups half and half
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 6 Earl Grey tea bags
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, warm the milk, half and half, and sugar over medium-heat, stirring occasionally. Once the milk is steaming (but not boiling), remove pan from heat. Place the tea bags into the pan, cover and steep at room temperature for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove tea bags, then return to medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla until frothy. Once the milk mixture is rewarmed, add 2 TBSP of the hot milk mixture to the eggs, and quickly whisk in until combined. Repeat 2-3 more times with more of the milk mixture, then gradually pour in the remainder of the milk mixture into the egg yolks and whisk quickly until combined.
  3. Return the new milk/egg mixture to the saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan constantly until the mixture thickens to a custard and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  4. Immediately strain through a fine-mesh strainer, and then refrigerate until completely cooled (at least 6-8 hours).
  5. Freeze with an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

From: Gimme Some Oven

I prefer Twinings Earl Grey flavor, but feel free to use whichever brand of tea you like best. If you’re unable to make the ice cream within 6-8 hours of refrigerating the custard, it will last for up to 2 days. Be sure to keep it tightly covered.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

This Is How It Always Is + Simple Orange Salmon

Often, I read a book that has been the talk of the town (so to speak), a book that everyone loves, a must-read, and I’m so excited to dig into it, convinced I will feel the same way, and then I’m disappointed. I’m sure I’ve written in the past about tempering my own expectations, though I know I’m guilty of it too – if I love a book, I can’t recommend it enough. I’ll talk about it constantly and push it on unsuspecting friends. I don’t think Laurie Frankel’s novel This Is How It Always Is falls into the disappointing category, but I think I might have liked it more had I stumbled upon it on my own – and not read it so closely behind the real life saga of a similar family in Becoming Nicole.

That being said, it’s an important novel – tackling controversial issues head on, causing you to examine how you feel and why you feel that way, but doing so in a relatable, enjoyable story – and I liked it for those reasons. The story centers around Claude, the youngest brother in an accepting, open-minded family of five boys. He wants to be a girl when he grows up – inside he feels more like Poppy than like Claude. Though Poppy’s family is fully supportive, the sacrifices they must make to keep this secret affects each of them in unique ways.

After four boys, Poppy’s mom desperately wanted a girl. On the day Claude was conceived, Rosie went through a complicated ritual concocted of random wives’ tales and legends, doing everything in her power to have a baby girl. Claude was born. I’m not entirely sure the result was what she had in mind, but ultimately, Poppy was also born, and their family was complete.

As part of her ritual, Rosie made salmon for her and her husband’s lunch, served alongside chocolate chip cookies. I decided to make the salmon as well, though without the cookies for dessert, and in honor of the orange peel on the cover, incorporate the fruit into the recipe as well.

To start, I patted my two salmon fillets dry on both sides and seasoned them with fresh ground black pepper and salt.

I heated some olive oil in a medium skillet and laid the fillets skin side down to begin cooking. After about 5-7 minutes, I flipped the fillets and added half an orange to the pan to grill alongside the fish.

The salmon cooked for another 4 or so minutes, until it was opaque throughout. I plated it with some sautéed zucchini and a wedge (or two) of orange. We squeezed the orange over the salmon just before eating.

Simple Orange Salmon

  • Servings: 2
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Ingredients

– 2 salmon fillets with skin, 4 to 6 oz each – 1 orange, halved – salt and freshly ground black pepper – olive oil

Directions

  1. Pat salmon fillets dry with a paper towel. Season each side generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Add 2-3 turns of olive oil to a medium or large skillet (depending on size of salmon fillets) and allow to heat through. Add salmon, skin side down. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until skin is a nice golden brown.
  3. Flip fillets and add orange half to skillet. Allow salmon to cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, until fish is opaque throughout. Watch orange and remove when it begins to char.
  4. Serve salmon immediately with orange wedges. Squeeze orange over fish before eating.

 

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

 

book review, recipe

The Sisters Chase + Powdered Donuts

I’m a sucker for stories about sisters. I love the relationship between Elizabeth and Jane in Pride and Prejudice. Little Women is, of course, sister-centric and wonderful. I’ve never read the book, but whenever I watch In Her Shoes, I cry. So, it will come as no surprise that for my June BOTM I chose The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy. I probably would’ve chosen it on the name alone, but it had the added benefit of coming highly recommended in my online book group as well.

Mary and Hannah Chase grow up in a small beach motel owned by their mother, Diane. When a car accident leaves the sisters on their own, eighteen-year-old Mary becomes Hannah’s guardian and takes it upon herself to do anything in her power to protect her. While Mary is at ease living a life in flux as they travel the country, Hannah aches for a real home where she can attend school and make friends. All Mary wants is for Hannah to be happy, but giving in may mean exposing a long-kept secret and risking an unbearable loss.

As an older sister, I definitely related to Mary and her willingness to do anything for her little sister, even if it seemed to be to her own detriment. Healy’s pacing and familiarity with the characters – they felt so real – resulted in a well-crafted story that wasn’t at all what I predicted. When I finished, it had me wanting to go back for a re-read.

Instead, I made some powdered donuts, like those the sisters’ mother piled high on a plate each morning for the motel’s guests. I wanted to bake them, since it’s less messy and somewhat healthier, so it gave me the perfect opportunity to use the donut pans I’ve had since two Christmases ago (thanks to my new sister-in-law, Kelly!).

The last time I made donuts was in middle school home ec class, and I remember being freaked out by splattering oil and the cleanup being such a process. This was MUCH easier. So much so that I may start making donuts more often.

First, I mixed the dry ingredients together – flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, a combined the egg, milk, vanilla extract and melted butter. I added these to the dry ingredients and mixed together.

Then, using a spoon, I added the batter into my greased donut pans, filling them about halfway.

I popped them into a 425-degree F oven and let them bake for 12 minutes. I let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.

Then, I dropped them into a paper grocery bag two at a time with some powdered sugar and shook and shook until they were well coated. Honestly, this happened really quickly (a few shakes at most). It was the most fun part of donut-making by far.

Everyone at work loved them, and I can’t wait to try new and different flavors. I always love when a book leads me a recipe I can use over and over again 🙂 Hope you enjoy!

Baked Powdered Sugar Donuts

  • Servings: 10
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Ingredients

  • 1¼ cups cake flour (see notes)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, for coating baked doughnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease doughnut pan; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, add all of the dry ingredients (cake flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt). Stir until well mixed.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, vanilla extract, melted butter and heavy cream.
  4. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients; stir until just mixed.
  5. Spoon or pipe the batter into the greased doughnut pan. (Tip: Fill each doughnut circle about half full of batter.)
  6. Bake at 425°F for 12-14 minutes, or until doughnuts begin to turn golden brown on the edges.
  7. Let doughnuts cool in the pan.
  8. Place powdered sugar in paper bag. Once doughnuts have cooled, shake doughnuts (one at a time) in the bag with the powdered sugar until well coated. Tap off any excess powdered sugar. Repeat with remaining doughnuts. Serve immediately. (Note: If you plan on serving these doughnuts later, store them uncoated in an airtight container. Shake them in powdered sugar just before serving.)

From: Spiced Blog

If you don’t have cake flour, which I didn’t, and don’t want to buy some just for this recipe, it’s easy to make your own with all-purpose flour. For each cup of flour you need, take 1 cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 TBSP and replace with 2 TBSP of cornstarch. Mix well to ensure it’s combined. I used 1½ cups flour with 3 TBSP for this recipe (and discarded the remaining ¼ cup).


This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

of interest

Show Us Your Books – July Edition

It’s another edition of Show Us Your Books! This last month has been a pretty busy one, so you’ll see that my book list is much shorter than the first time I did it, which also really included about a month and a half (from beginning of May until mid-June) since I sort of arbitrarily chose a start date.

What have I been up to that’s been delaying my book-devouring, you ask? Well, obviously last week was the Fourth of July, which in Michigan means almost everyone goes up north, me included. Scott and I spent a handful of days camping (sort of) outside of my family’s cabin and enjoying all the things that come with lake life, which included some reading in a hammock but mostly hanging out and catching up with family. But before that long weekend, on the First Day of Summer, Scott and I got married (yay – I’m a Mrs. now!) and then celebrated with a trip to Mackinac Island, which is also up north, but farther.

All exciting things! But let’s get to the books…

Linkup Guidelines:
This linkup happens the second Tuesday of every month. The next is Tuesday, August 8, 2017.
1. Please visit and comment with both of your hosts, Jana & Steph
2. Please display the button or link back to me and the linkup hosts on your blog post
3. Please visit a few other blogs who’ve linked up and get some book talk going!

Last Month’s Edition

 

Engrossing Reads (sort of…)

This time, sadly, I didn’t have any standout amazing reads. All of these may have suffered a bit from high expectations, and for me, were almost 4-stars but not quite.

The Sisters Chase – I’m happy I picked this as my Book of the Month selection for June. It was a quick read with a twist I didn’t see coming. Plus, it’s all about a big sister who does everything for her younger sister, and I can always get behind that. (Review coming Saturday!)

Beartown – Hockey hockey everywhere. I didn’t really get into this book until about 40% in, which is why it didn’t get outstanding marks for me. The character building was definitely needed and paid off in the end, but it didn’t stick with me the way Backman’s other books did.

This Is How It Always Is – This novel seemed like a fictionalized version of Becoming Nicole, which I talked about in my June edition of Show Us Your Books. I’m not sure if that colored how I felt about it at all, but I think it may have. It’s still a very important read, and I would recommend it.  

 

Passed the Time Just Fine

Jane in Austin – I haven’t read Sense and Sensibility (I know, I can hardly believe it myself), but I liked this modern adaptation. It was about tea, which I love, and I finally get to make ice cream, so I couldn’t be more excited.

 

Not Worth It

None this month!

 

Did Not Finish

The Country of Ice Cream Star – Guys, it didn’t work out with this one. I ended up getting 15% in and literally couldn’t take it anymore. I decided to stop torturing myself. This reminds me why I don’t buy books before I read them.

 

Currently Reading

Cloud Atlas – Phew, I’m almost done with this one! At about 500 pages, with a new location, time period and main character every chapter, it’s been a marathon. There are definitely parts of this book I’ve enjoyed and parts I’ve enjoyed less, but I’ll hold all judgments until I finish.

Until next month!

Life According to Steph

 

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

Lilac Girls + Poppy Seed Cake

No matter how many WWII novels I read or stories I hear, I’m still astonished at the atrocities that took place and how many people were able to overcome and survive such horrifying ordeals. Though I usually devour these books, which are often natural page-turners, I find them hard to get through mentally. Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls was no exception.

Inspired by the real Caroline Farriday and a group of Polish prisoners called “the Rabbits,” this novel tells the story of three women whose lives intersect at the Ravensbruck, the only Nazi concentration camp for women. In alternating chapters, we follow Kasia, a Polish teenager who becomes one of the Rabbits; Herta Oberhauser, a German doctor stationed at Ravensbruck; and Caroline, a New York City socialite, who does her best to assist in the war effort from abroad.

Though I’d be interested in finding out more about the real Caroline, I found her chapters to be the least compelling. Honestly, her storyline was the reason I couldn’t give this book a full 4 stars on Goodreads. (I would’ve given it 3.5 if Goodreads allowed it, but they don’t – one of my pet peeves.) Kasia’s and Herta’s chapters, on the other hand, had me turning the page constantly. I liked that Kelly told the story from such different points of view.

In one of the bright spots at Ravensbruck, Kasia and her sister receive a package from their father and unwrapped it to find not only chocolate and a sign of hope, but some poppy-seed cake as well. As she put it, “Polish cake would be good medicine.” I hadn’t heard of poppy seed cake before, but I knew it was the recipe to make this time around. I found one from Jenny Can Cook and set to work.

Upon starting the recipe, I realized I only had half as many poppy seeds as I needed. I’d bought one 2.6 oz bottle of poppy seeds at the grocery store, because the pickings were slim. If you find yourself in the same situation, you may want to pick up two containers, or if you’re trying this for the first time, you may want to make a smaller loaf instead, like I did. When I made it, I adjusted the recipe and made a half-sized loaf instead of the full recipe (I included the full recipe below).

First, I ground the poppy seeds 2 Tablespoons at a time, until they were moist and looked a lot like wet coffee grounds. I added boiling water to a small bowl and stirred in the poppy seeds until they were all moistened, letting them stand uncovered. Then, using the same grinder, I ground up my toasted almonds.

In a large bowl, I combined the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. To that I added, the warmed milk (slightly less than 120 degrees F since I was using active dry yeast), followed by the oil and the egg. Using an electric mixer, I beat it on high for about 2 minutes, and then added in the extra flour, beating it until it formed a mass. Mine was slightly sticky when I transferred it to the board, so I ended up adding about a Tablespoon more of flour (to my halved recipe). I should’ve taken a picture of my messy dough fingers, but it wouldn’t have been safe to grab my phone to do so. Dough everywhere!

I kneaded it and let it rest for 10 minutes while I combined the filling. To the poppy seeds, I added the ground almonds, lemon and orange zests, sugar and vanilla extract.

I rolled the dough out to about 5” x 6” (again with the halved recipe) and spread the filling on the top, almost to the edges.

Then, I carefully rolled it, placed it seam-side down, and tucked the ends under, placing it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. I covered it with a cloth and left it untouched in a warm place (aka my upstairs on an 80-degree July day) for about an hour and a half.

I opted to top it with an egg wash and poppy seeds before baking, thinking the glaze might make it too sweet. It also didn’t seem like Papa’s bread for his girls would’ve included a glaze, but I could be wrong. If you prefer a glaze, see the recipe notes.

I baked it for slightly less than the recipe called for due to size, but even with halving the recipe, I think it could’ve used maybe 5 minutes longer (or 30 minutes total) in the oven. It was hard to let it cool for a long time once it came out of the oven, but trust me, it’s much better when it’s fully cooled. I also personally like the outside thirds of the bread better than the middle third.

I hope you enjoy! Have you read the Lilac Girls? What did you think?

Poppy Seed Cake

  • Servings: 1 loaf
  • Print

Dough Ingredients

  • 1½ cups bread (or all purpose) flour
  • 1 packet (2 tsp/7 gms/1/4 oz) yeast – instant or active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup 1% milk heated to 120-130° F for instant yeast (or 110-120°F for active dry)
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 1 egg
  • about ¾ cup extra flour

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 cup poppy seeds
  • ⅓ cup boiling water
  • ¼ cup ground toasted almonds (20 count)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of ½ a lemon and ½ an orange

Directions

  1. Grind poppy seeds (see note below). Place in a small bowl, stir in boiling water & let stand uncovered.
  2. Grind almonds and set aside.
  3. Place flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in large mixing bowl.
  4. Stir in milk followed by oil and egg.
  5. Beat on high for 2 minutes. Stir in extra flour until dough forms a mass.
  6. Place dough on floured board and knead 100 turns (about 2 minutes). Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
  7. Meantime, add ground almonds, sugar, vanilla and zests to poppy seeds.
  8. Roll dough into a 10 x 12 shape. Spread filling almost to edges, roll starting at 10-inch end and place on parchment-lined baking sheet, seam side down. Pinch and tuck ends under.
  9. Cover with a towel and rise in a warm spot for 1½ hours or until double in size.
  10. Before making, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with additional poppy seeds.
  11. Preheat oven to 350° F and bake for 35 minutes. Allow to cool fully before slicing and serving.

From: Jenny Can Cook

Instead of coating the top with poppy seeds, if you prefer a sweeter bread you can add a glaze. Allow baked cake to cool for 10 minutes and drizzle with glaze, made using 1 cup powdered sugar and about 2 Tablespoons milk, added slowly.

If using a spice grinder, grind seeds slowly, about 2 Tablespoons at a time, until they feel moist – about 10 seconds per each portion. Scoop out any that stick to the bottom of the grinder as you go. Once they are all ground, use the same grinder to grind the almonds.


This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.