I’m frequently making breads and desserts that are made without an oven. Whether it be puddings, icebox desserts, steamed cakes, or donuts. And lots of flatbreads!
Today it was Imeruli khachapuri—pillowy soft flatbread stuffed with cheese. I always feel this sort of thing is a bit cheap in that of course anything loaded with cheese will taste good to most people, but there’s no denying how satisfying a fluffy, warm bread with a mix of cheeses can be.
I happened to have some mozzarella cheese to use up, and also local queso de hoja. Reading about sulguni cheese it actually sounds very similar to our queso de hoja. Like fresh mozzarella, but firmer, tangier, saltier. The imeruli cheese is usually substituted with feta, but I had some open cream cheese and I thought with the two cheeses it would make a tasty combination. And it did. The queso de hoja does the heavy lifting, so there’s a nice amount of tang.
Normally I’m all about the yeast dough, but having just made a batch of kefir, I decided to go with the type of dough leavened with baking soda. I know that these doughs turn out beautifully tender thanks to kefir, yogurt, or sour cream. The end result was flatbreads that don’t taste any worse for their lack of yeast.
I’ve made Michael Ruhlman’s English muffins countless times.
Last time I checked his blog, the post had been removed. I emailed asking him to repost it. He apologized for removing the post, emailed me the recipe and reposted it. He even included metric weights for the milk at my request.
The heat has arrived here, so turning on the oven can make the house uncomfortably hot.
I recently made sour cherry sorbet and I have a lot of egg whites, so I thought I’d try out a baked Alaska, but I’d steam the cake portion rather than bake it. The chocolate cake on its own is definitely not sweet enough, but I thought combined with sorbet and meringue it would be good. And to me once everything was combined it was the perfect level of sweetness. I’ve always preferred baked Alaska made with a tart sorbet (typically raspberry), but even then it’s pretty sweet with a thick layer of meringue. I would make smaller scoops of sorbet for better balance, but I really liked this overall.
I made this a long time ago and I loved it, but having made it again there are definitely some changes that I think would improve it.
First I’ll say that this recipe is a perfect example of why semifreddo is much better made with meringue or at least a pate a bombe rather than cream. I get why so many involve whipped cream, but in my experience semifreddo made with whipped cream always turn icy, and the cream feels fatty on the tongue. Semifreddo made with meringue is pillowy and impossibly creamy.
Yes it’s much easier to whip cream than make Italian meringue, but the meringue base is so much nicer. It’s hard to describe how lovely the texture of this dessert is. It tastes richer than it is.
As for the complaints…
People complain that there’s too much filling, and depending on your pan, I can see it. I filled my 9-inch Pullman pan to the top, so shorter pans might pose a problem, though they do tend to be a bit wider.
The solution proposed by some is to cut the meringue, but I think that’s the wrong way to go about it. I would
Reduce the sweetened condensed milk by half and keep all the meringue, as it would make this tarter, which would improve it, because as is I added a little more juice and this is a touch sweeter than I would prefer. The meringue is too important to reduce it imo. If I were to cut it down it would have to be just 1/4, so using 3 egg whites rather than 4.
The crust is hard to cut. Coarser crumbs will make for a crust that is less compact. I also will make this in a different pan next time so there is a thinner crust layer and it will also be easier to unmold.
You shouldn’t cut the sugar when making meringue, especially cooked meringues like Swiss and Italian. It’s what’s giving meringues their structure and density.
Better to cut the meringue to 3 egg whites and cut 50 g of sugar. The water amount does not need to be changed because it’s ultimately irrelevant how much water you start with, since your sugar syrup will only hit a certain temperature once sufficient water has been cooked out. The semifreddo can do with a little less meringue and won’t suffer for it.
Honestly everyone I’ve made this for really likes it as is (granted as I said I always add in a little more juice). I just happen to like my citrus desserts pretty tart and I am very picky about the sweetness levels in desserts in general. My mom who doesn’t typically like tart desserts still expressed “this has lemon” upon tasting it, in other words that it is tart, but for her, the tartness is reasonable unlike other citrus desserts I like.
But if you wanted to make it less sweet the sweetened condensed milk is not as important as the meringue. With half the sweetened condensed milk you’re still getting the base, but it’s more tart. I can’t say for certain if the texture would remain the same until I make it, but likely it would. The other option is to replace the sweetened condensed milk that is cut out with heavy cream or cream/crème fraiche, or even cream cheese (though would give you a slight cheesecake-like flavor). This I know would work pretty well given it’s how I make icebox lime pie.
I wanted more semifreddo, so this time I attempted one made with Greek yogurt, peaches, and amaretti. Flavor-wise it is good, but reminded me of why I don’t tend to like fruit in semifreddo, and that’s that it leads to ice crystal formation due to water content. Even though the fruit is cooked, with the sugar amount being low, the fruit freezes hard. I wonder if using gelatin to thicken might help, but in general I think it’s best to include the fruit as a flavored layer, blended and folded into part of the semifreddo base itself, or as a topping served with it.
Having made another semifreddo, I would definitely reduce the meringue to 3 egg whites and cut 50 grams sugar out of the lime one and replace half of the sweetened condensed milk with heavy cream if I wanted it less sweet. But since everyone likes it as is, I’d just stick to the meringue reduction for those that find it too much for the pan.
I decided to try my hand at picarones for the first time and the dough was pretty easy, but the syrup isn’t quite the way I want it. Granted I don’t have the correct ingredients because there’s no chancaca/panela/piloncillo here, so I improvised with brown sugar and maple syrup knowing it wouldn’t be the same but would work well with the pumpkin (I did only pumpkin because we don’t have orange fleshed sweet potatoes here). And it’s not the maple syrup that’s a problem. I think I definitely need the orange which some recipes call for and others don’t, and likely more anise. I might also try throwing in some lime, which one seller mentioned putting in her syrup and I think the bitterness from it would be good.
Continuing on the pumpkin fried dough front, I decided to make yeast-raised doughnuts with some leftover pumpkin from last night. Rolled in cinnamon sugar and some filled with salted butter caramel sauce, some plain with sauce available on the side. I always find frying doughnuts to be relaxing with the way they sort of quietly bubble along.
chocolate (or other) mousse, chocolate truffles/bonbons (though not when the kitchen is already hot), crepes with lemon curd or creme anglaise & berries, ice cream/sorbet/semifreddo/shave ice, nougat, marzipan … & others that don’t require baking but may still heat up your kitchen - caramels & toffee, pate de fruits, doughnuts/fritters, steamed puddings, rice pudding, tapioca …
there is another recent, very similar thread this could be combined with