Lemon Thyme & Ginger

Summer Backyard BBQ Menu Ideas

Summer Backyard BBQ Menu with recipe links.

There is nothing like getting together with friends and family for a day into night BBQ. The warmer temperatures and longer days just invite people to relax and hang outside. I put together a delicious BBQ Menu designed for ease of preparation,  seasonal produce, diet flexibility, and just good eats. When preparing a BBQ menu, the first thing to evaluate is know your guests’ dietary restrictions, if any. Don’t put any of your guests in the position where they must bring their own food. A courteous host will design a menu around their inspiration and friends and family food restrictions. In my case no matter if I am entertaining friends or family, I always need food for vegetarian, sometimes vegan, and gluten free diets. The whole menu does not have to include all the restrictions, but having at least one selection per course for any specialized diet is greatly appreciated.

Food allergies are taken more seriously than when I was growing up and there are times when people have so many food allergies and restrictions they opt to bring their own food. No one wants to put anyone out or feel like they are needing a special meal just for them. As a courtesy describe your menu to your friend or family member and inform them of your menu. If you are making something they can eat, let them know.

Summer BBQ Menu

Beer   Wine   Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita

Appetizers

Muhammarra   Grilled Shrimp Cocktail   Pickled Deviled Eggs

Main Course

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

Cold Sesame Noodles

Grilled Asparagus

3 Bean Salad

Dessert

Double Coconut Pie

Gluten Free Strawberry Tart

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

 

Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeno, recipe.

BBQ Menu: Drinks

Serving a selection of wine and beer and non-alcoholic beverages is all anyone expects at a backyard party. However, these days people are very particular about the type of wine and beer they like to drink. Most likely your guests will bring a beverage they like and willing to share.

For beer, offer a variety like a lager, IPA, and Saison. This variety should cover most people’s taste preference. You know you guests best, if the only beer your guests drink is Corona, then that is all you need. For me, I am surrounded beer aficionados, so the more diverse selection the happier they are.

My summer wine selection usually includes, red, white and rosé wines. Here again, people are particular about what wine they like to drink and based on my experience two types of white wines are necessary. There are two distinct white wine camps, those who only drink chardonnay and those who do not drink Chardonnay period. A choice of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio will round out the white wine selection nicely. Another option is offer White Bordeaux. It is a dry white wine and should appeal to both white wine camps.

For red wine, Merlot pairs nicely with the steak and is not as heavy as a Cabernet Sauvignon. Additionally, I found during the summer a lighter, dry red wine like Cotes de Rhone is another all-purpose red wine choice.

The great peace keeper is Rosé. Both red and white wine drinkers enjoy a dry rosé. So, if you do not have the white or red wine they prefer, rosé to the rescue. It is a refreshing wine and perfect for summer.

For fun, offer a signature cocktail like Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeno. You get two drinks in one with this recipe. The raspberry hibiscus juice is excellent in a cocktail and a non-alcoholic beverage mixed with seltzer or ginger ale.

BBQ Menu: The Beginning

No BBQ menu is complete without a good selection of appetizers. Chances are, your guests will arrive hungry anticipating a night of eating and drinking. Appetizers give people something to do other than drink, plus they set the mood of your party. Also, it is my experience people love appetizers or nibbly foods, sometimes more than the main dinner selection. Some people like to help and pass around a tray of appetizers because it gets them connected to everyone at the party.

Three recipes, Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Bacon, Roasted Red Pepper Dip with Walnuts and Pomegranate, Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots

BBQ Menu: Appetizers

Depending on the amount of people determines how many appetizers you need. For a party with 8 people, I usually have three appetizers. Having more than 2 appetizer selections gives people choices for their meal, it looks welcoming and people feel like they are going to be well fed. When there is a small selection of food, people feel self-conscious about eating, because no one wants to be the guy who eats more than their fair share, and like I mentioned earlier people are usually hungry as soon as they arrive to a BBQ. Even if you have a larger party, 3 appetizers are a nice selection but make enough of each for two appetizer stations.

Variety is the name of the game. People love chips and dip of any variety. Serve with a vegetable crudité, and chips and crackers. All my dips published in this blog are some of my favorites and picking one is like choosing which of your children is your favorite. They are all my favorite. For a small party, I would select one dip, for a larger party I make two or three dips depending on the other appetizers.

 

Muhammarra is a delicious roasted red pepper dip from Syria. It is a vegan dip, but not gluten free. You can easily eliminate the crackers and add more walnuts for a gluten free option. Next to guacamole, Muhammarra is one of my favorites.

No one can resist shrimp cocktail and this roasted shrimp cocktail with Sriracha horseradish cocktail sauce is a definite crowd pleaser.  As long as you got your grill going, grill the shrimp over indirect heat instead of roasting them.

If it is not super hot outside people love Deviled Eggs and the Cornichon Pickle Deviled Eggs will pair nicely with the rest of the menu.

Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dressing Recipe

BBQ Menu: Main Course

I went traditional with this BBQ menu and selected a meat entrée because this flank steak is easy to prepare and cooks up quickly.  My recipe for Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak is an oldie but goodie and one I use regularly. The marinade is also delicious for pork tenderloin. The photographs may need updating but the steak has a sweet, salty and smoky flavor that is timeless. With grilled sherry marinated flank steak, you can make all sorts of crowd pleasing main entrées. Serve it as is, make into a steak salad, or make tacos or steak fajitas. Additionally, any leftovers make the best steak sandwich.

Very few people don’t like grilled asparagus and it pairs well with this flank steak. On several occasions I discovered grilled asparagus is the only prepare some people will eat asparagus. As long as you got the grill going, you might as well grill up some vegetables. You can serve the grilled asparagus as is or have an orange mayonnaise dressing on the side. If you have vegetarians at your party be considerate and grill the asparagus before you grill the flank steak.

I often find a green salad is not the most popular food item at buffets and barbecues. My theory is people pile their plates with the main food selection with the best intention of returning for salad. But chances are they go back for seconds and forgo the salad. However, no one will miss the leafy green salad as long as there a couple of vegetable dish selections. For a leafy green salad substitute, I enjoy this 3 Bean Salad, made with two types of string beans, kidney beans and a lemon ginger vinaigrette.  Not only is it a delicious salad, it provides some protein for vegan and vegetarian guests.

For an unexpected side dish, serve Cold Sesame Noodles instead of potato salad. Cold sesame noodles also give your vegetarian guests some more protein with the 3 bean salad. If you need a gluten free side dish, make the cold sesame noodles with your favorite gluten free pasta, or Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit.

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette recipe

BBQ Menu: Dessert

For a small party one dessert is plenty, but if you are having more than 8 guests, then offer a selection of desserts. I prefer desserts that can easily be made in advance and maintain their vibrant appearance and taste. Unless I make a sheet cake, like Pioneer Woman’s, Best chocolate Sheet Cake, I do not bake cakes for barbecues. Pies, cookies, brownies, crisps, or make your own ice cream sundaes are perfect for a summer BBQ menu. An excellent pie, and gluten free to boot, is Double Coconut Pie or, Gluten free Strawberry Tart made with pistachio cookie crust. The strawberry tart taste best when it is assembled right before serving, but that does not take too much time.

Nothing beats these fudgy brownies with sea salt and caramel, and they can easily fit in to make your own brownie sundaes. Just add the caramel sauce after you top off with the ice cream. But if you want a cold and refreshing dessert, Lemon Mousse or Yogurt Panna Cotta are excellent options for a small backyard parties.

Party Success

All these recipes were published to feed an average size family, yet they can easily scale up to feed any number of number of people. If I am only serving one main entrée selection, I figure on 6 oz (175 g) per person for the main entrée. A 6 oz (175 g) serving is a normal sized dinner portion. If you have a lot of food in your buffet and a second entrée, figure on 4 oz (150 g) of meat or fish per person. A half cup (125 ml) per person is a good portion size for any salad, vegetable or grain side dish.

The key to a fun and relaxed backyard BBQ is don’t fret it. Do as much as you can in advance and let people help when offered. Once the appetizers are made, the only food you need to time is the flank steak, everything else can be made in advance. Keep any cold food chilled before serving. There is nothing on the vegetables dishes you need to worry about going bad, except if you serve the orange mayonnaise.

Summer parties are less formal, and people enjoy making a dish to share. The main point of your get together is just that, a gathering of friends and family for a relaxing evening of good food, and fun. There is nothing wrong with asking people to help. Know your talents and limits, if dessert is not your forte, ask friends to bring dessert or buy it. Or, maybe you love making dessert but can’t swing the appetizers or salad, ask for help. Honestly, most people enjoy bringing a contribution because it makes them feel they are part of the party’s success. As much as you do not want to be alone in the kitchen, your guests want to visit with you as well, so ask for help when you need it.

Here is to a summer full of lots of parties and barbecues. Enjoy!

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake, with a recipe.

Chocolate is a separate food group in my household and just like protein, I can’t live without it. Whenever I order a dessert in a restaurant, it is the chocolate desserts I gravitate to. However, I hesitate whenever I see a flourless chocolate cake on the menu because I do not know if it going to be fudge or cake. When it comes to flourless chocolate cake, I like them on the lighter side, not the ones that taste like dense fudge. It is not that I believe they taste bad, it is just they are very rich. The type of flourless chocolate cake I prefer, have a lighter airy texture, despite being moist and loaded with dark chocolate.

So far, I have come across two flourless chocolate cake recipes that satisfy my requirement of biting into a slice of cake, not a chunk of fudge. What makes them different from most flourless chocolate cake recipes out there is the use of finely ground nuts and whipped egg whites. The nuts act like a flour replacement and give the cake some texture and body. Also, because of the whipped egg whites, there is some air which gives the cake some lift and tastes light. Just like brownies, the cake is fudgy without being dense.

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe

The only challenging aspect to making a flourless chocolate cake is how fragile they are. Especially the types of cakes I prefer. Without the gluten to hold it together, the cake can easily break and crack. Transferring the cake off the bottom of the springform pan onto a serving dish requires the strength of all the good karma, prayers and best wishes you can muster. As well as patience and your best problem-solving skills. It is a very moist cake, especially in the middle which makes it very delicate.

My recipe is adapted from Diana Henry’s Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe in her cookbook, Simple. She uses ground almonds which I love, but I could not bring myself to use almonds a day after I wrote a post about Earth Day Recipes and how growing almonds in California is depleting their water supply. I will not give up almonds altogether, but I should leave some time before I start using them again.

Bitter Orange Chocolate Cake recipe

Flourless Chocolate Cake Variations

In my recipe I substitute almonds with ground walnuts and I added orange zest and Grand Marnier. Chocolate pairs well with many types of nuts, so you can’t go wrong using any type of nut. I do love walnuts and chocolate, especially with bitter orange flavors from orange zest and orange flavored liqueur. I kept all the proportions the same, but I also added Grand Marnier for an extra orange punch. There is just enough of the walnuts for a subtle nut flavor with the dark chocolate the focal point.

However, the addition of Grand Marnier makes the cake more fragile than without it. I believe this is because of the extra moisture in the cake batter. I don’t believe baking it longer will help. If you are concerned about the final show stopping appearance, then don’t add the Grand Marnier. The whipped cream has Grand Marnier in it, so the dessert will have the great chocolate and boozy orange flavor.

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe.

Removing the cake off the bottom of the spingform pan is challenging with this moist and delicate cake. If you don’t care, remove the sides of the pan and place the cake still on top of the pan’s bottom, on a serving plate. No one will care or notice while they are enjoying your delicious cake. Or, you can try lining the bottom of the pan with parchment paper to see if that helps. If your cake does break don’t despair, you can break it up and make ice cream sundaes with chocolate and vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate sauce, whipped cream with orange flavors and candied orange peel. Or, cut the cake up into bite size pieces for people to nibble on with their coffee or tea.

Orange Essence Flourless Chocolate Cake is worth making regardless of its delicate nature. Because the chocolate is the dominate flavor, use the best quality of chocolate you can buy with 70%- 72% cocoa butter. I have great success with Lindt chocolate and Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate, twilight delight found in candy section of the grocery store. Here is a link for more information on the best chocolate bars for baking from Serious Eats.

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe

Enjoy!

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Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake

An effortless flourless chocolate cake with intense dark chocolate flavor and a light and nutty texture. The cake is very moist and fudgy but not dense.   

Serve with whipped cream 

Course Dessert
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Cooling Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Flourless chocolate cake

  • 6.75 oz (192 g) unsalted butter about 1 2/3 sticks
  • 11.5 oz (328 g) good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces 70% coco solids
  • 3/4 cup (164 g) super fine sugar
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup (57 g) ground walnuts (see note)
  • finely grated zest from half a navel orange
  • 2 TB Grand Marnier Optional
  • Confectioners' sugar for dusting the cake

Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 TB confectioners' sugar or to taste
  • Zest from half an orange
  • 2 TB Ground Marnier or a 1/2 teaspoon of Orange Blossom Water

Instructions

For the Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F (177°C /Gas Mark 4) oven. Butter an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan. Set aside. 

  2. In a medium metal mixing bowl, add the broken-up chocolate, the butter and sugar to the bowl. 

  3. Add some water to a large 10-inch (25.5 cm) skillet just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Set on a burner over medium heat. Bring the water to a gentle simmer and place the bowl with the chocolate, butter and sugar in the center of the skillet. Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally. Do not let the water get to a brisk boil. Keep it at a gentle simmer, being careful not to splash water into the chocolate. 

  4. Remove the bowl from the skillet just before all the butter has melted and stir until all the chocolate and butter has melted. Let the chocolate cool for four minutes. 

  5. Add the egg yolks one at a time to the chocolate, stirring between each addition until each yolk is incorporated. 

  6. In a separate bowl, with a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff with soft peaks and still wet. Soft peaks will form when you lift out the beaters. Gently fold in the Grand Marnier if using. 

  7. Add the orange zest to the ground walnuts and mix together. Add the walnut mixture to the chocolate and half of the whipped egg whites. Fold into the chocolate. Then fold in the remaining egg whites. 

  8. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and place on a rimmed sheet pan in case it leaks.  Place the cake in the oven and bake for 35 minutes. 

  9. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a cake rack. Don't get upset if you see the cake deflate and crack as it cools. When the cake is completely cool, unlatch the pan and carefully remove the sides. Run an icing spatula, or thin sharp knife under the cake to loosen. It helps to clean off the spatula or knife every time you pull it out from under the cake. Carefully transfer the cake onto a serving plate.

  10. Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar right before serving. 

Whipped Cream

  1. Right before serving, use a hand-held mixer and whip the heavy cream until it just holds its shape. Sprinkle in the confectioners' sugar and Grand Marnier, if using. Whip until combined soft peaks form. Taste and correct the whipped cream for sweetness and the Grand Marnier. Place in a small serving bowl. 

  2. Serve the whipped cream with the cake and extra fruit, like berries. 

Recipe Notes

Before you start the cake, toast the walnuts in a preheated 350°F (177 °C / Gas Mark 4) oven. Spread a couple of handfuls (60 g) of the walnuts over a small rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 7 minutes. Spread the toasted walnuts over a clean lint free kitchen towel. Fold a portion of the towel over the nuts to cover and rub the towel with the walnuts back and forth to remove the walnut skin. No need to go crazy rubbing off all the skin. Rub back and forth a few times until no more skin comes off without scrubbing. Collect the walnuts leaving the loose skin behind and grind the walnuts in a food processor. 

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake. A flourless chocolate cake recipe made with ground walnuts and flavored with orange zest and Grand Marnier. It has intense dark chocolate flavor complemented with the bitter orange essence. A very moist and light cake.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, reicpe

When you crave fudgy brownies like nothing else matters, sometimes the only way to satisfy this desire is make them for yourself. It is my experience, homemade brownies have just the right texture and flavor that I want. There were too many times I bought a brownie at a gourmet store and they were dry and dull. I guess I am very particular about my brownies. Fortunately, it is not difficult to make good fudgy brownies at home.

Other than the dark chocolate, what I love about making brownies from scratch is I can mix them by hand. It doesn’t take a lot of whisking, whipping or timing, just a good stir to mix everything up. For the novice baker, homemade brownies are a good place to start learning how to bake.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, recipe

This recipe is from Ina Garten’s Salted Caramel Brownies from her book, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof. Ina’s cookbooks and recipes are very well organized and constructed. You can trust her to present each recipe clearly, accurately and efficiently. Her brownies are dangerously delicious. They have deep dark chocolate flavor with just the right amount of moisture without being gooey. For all brownie lovers out there, chocolate fudgy brownies with rich caramel and flaky sea salt drizzled over the top are a masterpiece. There is nothing that grabs your attention like chocolate, caramel and sea salt all in one delectable brownie bite. This is a happy marriage.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, recipe 

I made two changes to Ina Garten’s recipe. In the original recipe she uses semisweet chocolate chips in the brownies chocolate foundation. Chocolate chips have additional ingredients besides cocoa butter and sugar and I believe should only be used as chips. Sometimes, melted down chocolate chips has a chalky flavor and grainy texture. This is not something I want in my brownies. A bar of good quality semisweet chocolate melted with a bar of unsweetened chocolate gives the brownies a lighter texture and a purer chocolate flavor.

The other change I made is, I use less caramel sauce than she recommends in her recipe. She specifies 5 ounces of caramel sauce to drizzle over the brownies. That is a lot of caramel sauce and looks more like frosting on a cake then a glaze. Feel free to adjust the amount of caramel sauce according to your preference.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, recipe.

Caramel Sauce for Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

If you are buying caramel sauce, please seek out real caramel sauce. The common brands you’ll find in a super market are mostly made with artificial flavor and corn syrup. You want the real deal to drizzle over your homemade real chocolate brownies. Ina Garten recommends Fran’s, but I also like Cara Sel and Fat Toad Farm Caramel. Fran’s is a company out of Washington that specializes in chocolates. Cara Sel comes from a family run company in the NY Hudson Valley. You can find their caramel sauce in stores all over NY State and on-line. Fat Toad Farm is a family run farm in Vermont and their caramel sauce is made with goat’s milk. All three sauces are delicious artisan caramel sauces you can buy online or in specialty stores. Use any brand you like, but please make sure it is the real stuff.

Often, I make caramel sauce while these brownies bake in the oven. It takes about 20 minutes and is something worth knowing how to make. Loaded fudgy brownies have a lot of dark chocolate, almost 12 ounces worth, plus 6 ounces of chocolate chips. Depending on what brand chocolate you buy, brownie ingredients are expensive. Add another $10 to $16 for a 6 oz jar of caramel sauce turns these homemade brownies into gold.

The caramel sauce recipe I use is from Simply Recipes on the web.  It makes caramel sauce using the dry method, which I prefer because it takes less time and I am impatient. Here is a recipe for caramel sauce using the wet method. It takes longer but the sugar melts at an even rate. Also, it does not have butter in it. You need a good heavy-bottom 3-quart sauce pan to prevent the sugar from burning. Follow the directions carefully and please take the necessary precautions so hot caramel does not bubble over your mixing hand.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, recipe.

Tips for Making Fudgy Brownies

  • One special piece of equipment you need is a double boiler to melt the chocolate and butter. If you do not have a double boiler, make one by fitting a small heat proof mixing bowl over a 3-quart sauce pan filled with less than an inch of water.
  • While melting the chocolate in a double boiler, keep the heat medium-low and make sure the simmering water does not touch the bottom of the pan, or bowl holding the chocolate.
  • Allow for several minutes to cool the chocolate before you add it to the eggs and sugar. If the chocolate and butter are too hot, it will cook your eggs.
  • Before you add the chocolate chips to the brownie mix, allow some time for the mix to come to a cool room temperature. This insures the chips don’t melt and ruin the brownies.
  • Be careful not to over bake the brownies. They are done when a tooth pick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out clean. If you do over bake them they will still taste good, but they won’t be as moist.

Whenever you need to bring a dessert to a friend’s house, a hostess gift, a dessert for a weekend getaway, or a last minute get together, these brownies will please everyone who loves chocolate. I even mailed them as a care package to Taylor in college. Fudgy brownies with sea salt and caramel are a family favorite.

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Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

Dark chocolate fudgy brownies with rich caramel sauce and flaky sea salt. It just doesn't get any better than this. This recipe is slightly adapted from Ina Garten's Salted Caramel Brownies from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof Cookbook To make your own caramel sauce try either of these recipes from Serious Eats or Simply Recipes or buy real caramel sauce at a specialty store.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 12 brownies
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • ½ lb 226 g unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into pieces about 1 TB in size
  • 8 oz 227 g semisweet chocolate, broken in to irregular pieces
  • 3 oz 75 g unsweetened chocolate, broken into irregular pieces
  • 3 large eggs
  • TB 6 g instant coffee granules, like Medaglia D'Oro or Café Bustelo
  • 1 TB pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 TB 246 g granulated sugar
  • ½ cup 71 g plus 2 TB (17 g) all-purpose flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • 6 oz 172 g semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2-4 oz 60-125 ml caramel sauce
  • 2-3 tsp flaky sea salt such as Maldon

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Place the rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Butter and lightly flour a 9 x 12 x 1½ inch (23 x 30 x 4 cm) baking pan. (preferably metal)
  3. Make a double boiler by placing a medium bowl resting on the rim of a 3 qt sauce pan filled no more than an inch (2.5 cm) of water. Turn the heat to medium-high and place the butter, semisweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate in the bowl. Melt the chocolate and butter. Every now and then, carefully stir the chocolate and butter. Watch to make sure the simmering water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Once melted, remove the bowl from the sauce pan and cool for 15 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl stir together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and granulated sugar. Do not beat the eggs, just stir to combine.
  6. After the 15-minute cooling time, slowly add the melted butter and chocolate to the eggs and sugar mixture. Pour about a quarter of the chocolate into the mix and stir to temper the brownie mix. Slowly add the remaining melted chocolate and butter and stir at the same time. Once mixed together, allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. See note.
  7. In a medium bowl add the ½ cup (71 g) flour, baking powder, and Kosher salt. Use a small whisk and whisk the flour mixture until the flour, baking powder and salt are evenly combined. Add the flour mixture to the bowl with the cooled chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Toss the chocolate chips in the flour bowl with the remaining 2 TBS of all-purpose flour until they become nicely coated. Add the chocolate chips and flour into the chocolate brownie mix. Stir to mix.
  8. Pour the brownie mix into the prepared pan and spread to form an even layer.
  9. Bake for 35 minutes, or when a tooth pick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean. The edges will look slightly dry and just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Do not over bake. The brownies will continue to bake while it is cooling.
  10. Remove the brownies from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
  11. When the brownies are just out of the oven, heat up your caramel sauce in a microwave until it thins out to a pouring consistency. Stir the caramel sauce until smooth.
  12. Evenly drizzle the caramel sauce over the hot brownies, then sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
  13. Completely cool the brownies before cutting into serving pieces.

Recipe Notes

Cooling the chocolate brownie mix to a cool room temperature is crucial. If the brownie mix is too warm when you add in the chocolate chips, all the chocolate chips will melt and ruin the brownies.

Nutrition Facts
Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, recipe. Deliciously addictive Chocolate Brownie recipe with caramel sauce and sea salt drizzle . Adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Salted Caramel Brownies.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

A few years ago, I offered to bring a dessert for our Russian themed book club meeting. Our theme had nothing to do with the current US and Russian political climate, but was literary based around a love story from a classic Russian novella by Sergeevish Turgenev. At the time, the possibility of Russia interfering with the 2016 election was not even a blip in our imagination. Our job was to decipher the leads told throughout a melodramatic Russian love story and form an opinion if “First Love” was the definitive love story written in the 19th century. The task was not as insurmountable as it sounds, but my bigger concern lay with what should I bring for dessert?

After reading the story, and not feeling enthusiastic about it, I waltzed into researching ideas for a “Russian” dessert. It did not take long to discover a meringue dessert created to honor the Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. Pavlova is a dessert consisting of a meringue nest filled with whipped cream and seasonal fresh fruit. Each bite is a choreographed dance of sensual textures and flavors. It is soft and crispy, sweet and tart, and as light as a ballerina pirouetting on a cloud.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

In 1926 and 1928, Anna Pavlova toured with her ballet company to Australia and New Zealand. Her world tours were as anticipated as the Beatles and considered a major event for both countries. Chefs in Australia and New Zealand built on the excitement and honored her by creating and naming a meringue cake in her honor. Both countries have a long-standing dispute over the origin of the pavlova, inspired by the dancer’s tutu. The pavlova turned out to be as captivating as the ballerina’s graceful dancing, growing in popularity around the world for almost a hundred years. There is evidence that neither country created this meringue cake, but they did influence in its legacy. A true love story in its’ own right.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

How to Make a Pavlova

Unlike other meringues, like my peppermint meringue cookies, that are crispy through and through, a pavlova has a crispy outside and a creamy-marshmallow center. A small amount of corn starch makes this marshmallow middle possible. The luscious contrast in texture is one reason for the dessert’s popularity.

Making a pavlova is not difficult, but like all meringues they are temperamental. The right conditions, cool dry air, and slowly adding sugar to the developing meringue are key to success. Another important factor is making sure your mixing bowl and beaters, or whisk, are clean. Any oil or fat residue will prevent the eggs whites from developing into an airy cloud. A new trick I just learned is clean out your mixing bowl and beaters with distilled vinegar then wipe the bowl and beaters dry with a lint free cloth. This extra step will ensure your bowl is free of any traces of fat.

Once the egg whites are all glossy and fluffy, bake the meringue in a low temperature oven. Don’t peek. Keep the door shut throughout the cooking and cooling process. Like a soufflé, meringue deflates when exposed to air before it is set.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

Meringues are very sweet, so I offset the sweetness with tart fruit and lightly sweetened whipped cream. Adding extra sweet fruit, jams, fruit curds, or sauces makes the pavlova cloyingly sweet. Passion fruit has a tart flavor and is perfect with meringue. If you can find fresh passion fruit scoop out the flesh and seeds and drizzle it over the whipped cream for a dramatic affect. Otherwise you can buy frozen passion fruit pulp in the freezer section of your grocery store. I made a sauce  with the passion fruit with a little sugar and reduced it slightly. Resist the temptation to add more sugar. The sauce is tart by itself, but combined with the sweet meringue, the tart flavor subsides.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

Switch it up

For a dairy free option, make whipped cream with coconut cream found in full fat coconut milk.

For a vegan option make the meringue with Aquafaba, chickpea water, and use coconut milk whipped cream. Top with fruit and passion fruit sauce.

For more lemon flavor add 1 TB fresh lemon juice to the finished meringue. Fold it in with the lemon zest, corn starch. Omit the vinegar.

Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of unsweetened natural coco powder for a chocolate Pavlova. Fold in the coco powder with the corn starch until no streaks are left. (omit the lemon zest in this recipe)

My pavlova recipe is adapted from  Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa, Mixed Berry Pavlova.

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Lemon Pavlova with Passion Fruit and Kiwi

Pavlova is a sweet, airy and show stopper dessert made with meringue that is crispy with a creamy center. Covered with lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh fruit, a pavlova is a spectacle to see and eat. A very elegant dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. For best results, assemble the pavlova just before serving. This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten, Mixed Berry Pavlova
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 55 minutes
Servings 6 -8
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 5 egg whites about 1/2 cup (125 ml)
  • 1 cup 7 oz/ 202 g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp distilled vinegar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 cup 250 ml heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 TB powdered sugar
  • 1 kiwi peeled and sliced thin,
  • 3/4 cup 185 ml frozen passion fruit pulp, or one fresh passion fruit
  • 1-2 TB granulated sugar if using pulp
  • Berries and fresh mint to garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F /180°C and place the oven rack in the middle position.
  2. Draw a 9 inch (23 cm) circle in the middle of a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover a large rimmed baking sheet. Turn the paper over, and place the parchment paper on your baking sheet. The drawn side is facing down. Set aside.
  3. Wipe your mixing bowl and beaters with some distilled vinegar then wipe dry with a lint free cloth.
  4. Add the egg whites with a small pinch of Kosher salt to a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Turn the speed to medium-high and whisk until the egg whites become foamy and hold soft peaks.
  5. With the motor running add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking between each addition. This will take some time, about 5 minutes, but it prevents the egg whites from deflating. When all the sugar is added, turn the speed up to high and beat until the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks and all the sugar is dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Test if the sugar is dissolved by rubbing a small piece of whipped egg whites between your fingers. If it feels course, then the sugar has not fully dissolved. If so, continue beating the egg whites or a minute more, but be careful to not over beat the meringue because it will deflate.
  6. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the cornstarch over the meringue. Add the lemon zest and vinegar then carefully fold the ingredients into the meringue until evenly combined.
  7. Pour the meringue on to the parchment paper aiming for the middle of your circle. Spread out the meringue to evenly fill the circle.
  8. Place in the oven and turn the heat down to 300°F / 150°C Bake for 1 hour then turn off the oven. Keep the oven door closed no peeking. Cool the meringue in the oven for an hour, or until it reaches room temperature.
  9. You can make the meringue a day ahead and store in an airtight container on the counter. A cool oven is a great place to store the meringue overnight. Do not refrigerate.

Passion Fruit Sauce

  1. Pour the passion fruit sauce into a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high and add 1 TB of the sugar. Whisk to combine and bring to a gentle simmer. Taste add another tablespoon of sugar if needed. Remember the meringue is very sweet so keep the passion fruit sauce on the tart side. Whisk to combine and simmer. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken and slightly reduces. Turn off the heat and pour the sauce into a heat proof container. Cool to room temperature.

Make the Whipped Cream

  1. Add the chilled heavy cream to a medium bowl and whip with a hand held mixer, or use a free standing mixer, until just starting to thicken. Add the vanilla extract and sugar and beat until soft peaks form. Cover and keep refrigerated until needed.

Assemble the Pavlova

  1. Just before serving, slowly peel away the parchment paper from the meringue. A thin spatula helps release any stubborn parts. Slide the meringue onto a serving plate, then layer with the whipped cream. Scatter the fruit on top of the whipped cream then drizzle with the passion fruit or some of the sauce. Garnish with fresh mint if using.
  2. Serve immediately with extra sauce.
  3. Once assembled, pavlovas do not keep very long because the whipped cream makes the meringue soggy. You can cover any leftovers with aluminum foil and keep in the refrigerator for one day with the understanding some of the crispiness will subside.

Recipe Notes

Meringues are temperamental to humid condition. Store in an air tight container until needed. A cool oven is the best place to store a meringue, just make sure you don't accidentally turn it on.
You can also make 6 - 8 small nests instead of one big one. Each meringue then gets a large dollop of whipped cream and fresh fruit.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways, recipe.

Whenever I make Chocolate Pots de Creme or other custard dessert, I have a lot of egg whites looking for a purpose. For years I would throw out the unused egg whites until I learned egg whites freeze well. Now, I freeze the egg whites and pick a time to make one of my favorite desserts, mousse, dacquoise, or meringue cookies. During the winter, I especially enjoy peppermint meringue cookies with their pink swirls and minty flavor. These light and crispy cookies have just enough peppermint flavor and taste as good dressed up with peppermint candies or white chocolate, or as is. They are festive cookies, perfect for the holidays and make a great hostess gift.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 ways, recipe

Peppermint Meringue Cookie: 3 Ways, recipe.

It is not difficult to make peppermint meringue cookies, but there are a few factors to keep in mind.

  1. Eggs are easier to separate when they are cold, but room temperature egg whites get more volume. Separate the whites from the yolks when the eggs are just removed from the refrigerator. Make sure there are no traces of yolk in the egg whites. Leave the whites on the counter for 30 minutes to come up to room temperature before making meringue.
  2. Use clean beaters and bowls. It seems like an obvious statement, but any trace of water, soap, egg yolk, or other proteins will hinder your success at getting silky and airy meringue with lots of volume.
  3. Add the egg whites and acid or Cream of Tartar together, then whisk the egg whites. Acid, like lemon juice, white vinegar, or Cream of Tartar, are stabilizers and help with the structure of airy meringue.
  4. Slowly add the sugar to the whites one tablespoon at a time. If you add the sugar in too quickly the egg whites will deflate.
  5. Pipe the meringue and bake the cookies immediately after you stop whisking the meringues.
  6. Cool the meringue cookies in the oven after baking. Unless you need the oven to make dinner, it is a perfect air tight space to cool the meringue. I often make meringue at night because meringue take so long to bake, then I keep the meringue in the oven overnight. Once cool, store the cookies in an airtight container on the counter. Meringues do not like moisture and will sweat or get sticky when left out in the air.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways, recipe.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways, recipe.

How to make the red swirls or stripes on the meringue cookies:

  1. Method 1 as suggested in the recipe: add drops of red food coloring to the finished meringue in the mixing bowl. Do not mix. Then spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a ½ inch (1 cm) tip. Press out the air and secure the pastry bag. Pipe the meringue in a spiral motion and make a 1½ inch (4 cm) circle. This produces meringue cookies with swirly pink lines in each cookie. No two cookies look the same. As pictured in this blog post.
  2. Method 2: use an artist’s paint brush and paint 3 evenly spaced lines of red food coloring inside and up the length of the piping bag. It will look like three straight candy stripes in your piping bag. Carefully spoon the meringue into the piping bag fitted with a ½ inch (1 cm) tip or your choice. Press out all the air and twist and secure the top of your pastry bag. This method produces uniform looking meringue cookies with evenly spaced vertical red lines.

Personally, I like the first method because I love the pink swirls in each cookie, and I don’t have to worry about messing up the painted lines while I am spooning the meringue into the piping bag. If you don’t own piping tips and a pastry bag, plastic bags work just as well. See recipe description for instructions.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways, recipe.

 Toppings for your Peppermint Meringue Cookies

  1. Make the cookies as the recipe states without extra decoration. The peppermint flavor is pronounced, and the meringue cookie is light and crispy.
  2. For a little extra crunch, add crushed peppermint candy to the meringue cookie batter. And/or sprinkle crushed peppermint candy over the meringue cookies before you place them in the oven.
  3. Dip the bottom or top of cooled meringue cookies in melted white chocolate, then coat the white chocolate bottoms with crushed peppermint candy or coconut flakes.

There are endless possibilities for decorating and personalizing your meringue cookies. If peppermint is not your thing, fold in a couple of tablespoons of freeze-dried coffee granules into meringue. The coffee granules will create a subtle swirly pattern of coffee-colored meringue in each cookie. The coffee meringue will also taste great dipped in white chocolate. Or flavor with lemon extract, orange blossom water, or rose water and minced pistachios.

This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit.  I use their piping technique, but I slightly changed the ingredients. These cookies are great as is, but I love the peppermint meringue cookies dipped in white chocolate and peppermint candy. The white chocolate adds a creamy texture and taste against the crispy and minty meringues. These airy cookies are a real crowd pleaser.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways, recipe.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways, recipe.

 

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Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways

Peppermint meringues are crisp and airy cookies with a bright mint flavor. Decorate the meringue cookies with crushed peppermint candy, melted white chocolate and or unsweetened shredded coconut. These cookies make great hostess gifts for the holidays. You do not need a pastry bag to make meringue cookies. Fill a gallon size plastic bag with the meringue and shape it into a corner of the bag. Twist the bag at the top of the meringue to get a cone shape. Snip off the corner to make a 1/2 inch opening to squeeze the meringue through. To crush the peppermint candy, place the candy in a zip lock bag and pound the candy with a meat mallet until they reach the desired size.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes
Servings 40 cookies
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 2/3 cup (152 g) granulated sugar*
  • 1/8- 1/4 tsp real peppermint extract
  • 12 drops red food color

Optional Decorations

  • 12 oz (342 g) white chocolate, melted
  • About 1/2 cup (125 ml) crushed peppermint candies
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200°F/ 93°C
  2. Fit a ½ inch (1 cm) tip into a pastry bag and set upright inside a tall drinking glass. Fold the edges of the pastry bag over the glass rim. Set aside.
  3. Prepare two rimmed sheet pans. Cover each sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  4. Add egg whites and vinegar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk the egg whites at medium speed until they are light and foamy with soft peaks, about a couple of minutes.
  5. Turn up the speed to medium-high and add the granulated sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking the whites for a few seconds between additions. It will take around 6 minutes to add all the sugar.
  6. Once all the sugar is added, turn the speed up to high and whisk the meringue until glossy and stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.
  7. Optional: If you want crushed peppermint candy in your meringue cookies, using a rubber spatula, fold in 2 Tablespoons of finely crushed peppermint candy into the meringue before you add the food coloring.
  8. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and add 12 drops of red food color scattered about the meringue. Do not mix.
  9. Spoon the meringue into the pastry bag, or gallon size Ziploc plastic bag, without stirring the meringue. Once all the meringue is added, twist the bag closed and squeeze down on the bag until the meringue is down to the tip without air pockets. If using a Ziploc bag, snip off the tip of a corner making a ½ inch (1 cm) opening.
  10. Using gentle, squeeze the meringue out of the piping bag and make a 1½ inch (4 cm) circle in an upward spiral, and space each meringue cookie about an inch (2.5 cm) apart.
  11. Bake in the oven for 2 hours, or until the meringue is dry.
  12. Turn off the oven and cool the meringue cookies in the oven. Once cooled, remove the meringue cookies and decorate, or store in an air tight container. Meringues do not like damp conditions or humid weather. Keep them out of the humidity or air long as possible.
  13. Decorate as you wish.

Optional Decorations

  1. Break up the white chocolate into pieces and place in a glass bowl. Melt the chocolate in the microwave. Microwave on high heat for 30 seconds. Stop and stir the chocolate and access the progress. Repeat, melting the chocolate in the microwave in 20 second intervals then stirring, for as many intervals as needed until the chocolate is mostly melted.
  2. Take the chocolate out of the microwave and add the remaining white chocolate to the bowl and stir the white chocolate until all the chocolate has melted.
  3. Place crushed peppermint candies on a plate, and/or the coconut flakes if using. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  4. Dip the meringue cookies in the melted white chocolate, either the bottom or top, and turn the cookie around to get an even coating. Let the excess chocolate drip off, then press the chocolate coated cookie in the peppermint candy or coconut flakes. Place each meringue cookie on the prepared sheet pan until dry. Repeat until all the cookies are coated in chocolate.

Recipe Notes

* When making meringue, super fine sugar works better than granulated sugar. It dissolves faster and is not as dense. I cannot get super fine sugar in my grocery store, instead I process the granulated sugar in a food processor, about 5-6 pulses. If you don't have either option, granulated sugar works, but make sure you add it into the meringue slowly.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies with three ways to decorate them. Use white chocolate, crushed peppermint candy and or shredded unsweetened coconut. A fun and delicious holiday cookie recipe.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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