Results tagged agave from David Lebovitz

Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream

strawberries

I was thinking of having “If you change the ingredients in a recipe, results will vary” tattooed on my forehead, but there wasn’t enough room. (Although if my hairline keeps receding at this rapid pace, it may happen sooner than you think.) When I used to teach classes, folks were always wanting to tinker with recipes, especially ice cream, replacing the cream with what-have-you. Or to replace the sugar with something else. I’m not sure why, because I spend an inordinate amount of my life developing and testing recipes to get them just right.

strawberries

Unless I’ve personally tested it, it’s pretty hard to give my nod of approval and tell what will and what won’t work in recipes, especially when it comes to swapping out sweeteners and dairy products since their counterparts behave quite differently than one might think. Ice cream, of course, depends on cream to give it that particular texture and flavor. But I do like and use non-dairy alternatives at home on occasion and saw no reason why I couldn’t churn up a batch of ice cream without a drop of dairy.

Continue Reading Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream…

Why and When To Use (or Not Use) Corn Syrup

corn syrup

Because this comes up frequently, I’d like to take a moment to explain why and when one uses corn syrup in recipes. I use it judiciously, when I feel it will make a discernible difference in a recipe. For those of you who are regular readers of the site and my books, you’ll notice almost all of the time, I hardly ever use pre-packaged or convenience foods in my baking. So when I do call for something, like corn syrup, it’ll often be in amounts of one teaspoon or a tablespoon. And since most recipes feed eight-to-twelve people, proportionally, that’s a pretty small amount.

For example, the recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies with Salted Butter Caramel has one tablespoon of corn syrup added to the caramel, to keep it smooth. Since the recipe makes fifty cookies, that means each cookie contains less than 1/16th of a teaspoon of corn syrup.

Yes, people who live in America probably do eat too much corn syrup. (High fructose, or otherwise.) That can be controlled and monitored by using less-packaged foods and reducing the amounts of fast foods that you consume. If you’re worried about corn syrup “hiding” in foods, read labels, cook for yourself as much as possible, and buy locally-produced products from smaller producers who are less-likely to put additives in foods, so you’ll be in control of how much you’re eating. I am a fan of natural and alternative liquid sweeteners, such as agave nectar, maple syrup, honey, rice syrup, and golden syrup, and do have recipes that use them, and encourage folks to give them a try, where applicable.

There’s a lot of studies, medical reports, advertising, propaganda, and all sorts of information being disseminated from a variety of sources. Evidence does point to high-fructose corn syrup contributing more than other sweeteners, to obesity and other health issues, and you can search around and come to your own conclusions. Since I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, or medical researcher, I’ve provided some links at the end of this post for further reading and you can draw your own conclusions.

My personal philosophy about corn syrup consumption: Like other foods that don’t meet a nutritionally-ideal profile, I limit my consumption, but don’t obsess about it. I drink alcohol and coffee. I sometimes eat red meat and cheese, plus chocolate, ice cream, sugar, and marshmallows, all of which have their detractors, too. I walk and ride a bike as much as possible and try to eat a healthy diet that includes a lot of fruits and vegetables, proteins, and whole grains, which offset treating myself to those indulgences.

Corn Syrup FAQs

Why do some recipes have corn syrup in them?

Corn syrup is an invert sugar, which means that it prevents sugar crystals from forming. Microscopically, sugar has jagged edges and when you melt it, sugar liquefies. But if you keep cooking it to a syrup, those jagged edged-fellas want to re-attach themselves to others. Corn syrup acts as interfering agent, which ‘interfere’ with that process. Honey, agave, and the like, don’t have the same properties.

If making a caramel, and a recipe calls for corn syrup, you can substitute a dash of lemon juice or cream of tartar, which performs nearly the same function.

In other cases, like my Best Chocolate Sauce, corn syrup is used to give it a shine. (See below.)


Is the corn syrup one buys in the supermarket the same at high-fructose corn syrup?

No. According to Harold McGee, high-fructose corn syrup goes through an additional process to make it sweeter than standard corn syrup. Karo, the company that makes most of the corn syrup found on supermarket shelves in America, has come out with Karo Lite, which contains no high-fructose corn syrup. I haven’t used it so I can’t comment on how it works, or if its nutritional claims are sound or not.


Will corn syrup make you fat?

Yes.

So will sugar, as well as other sweeteners. And so will French fries, red meat, chocolate, dried apricots, heavy cream, honey, nuts, beer, wine, maple syrup, martinis, croissants, and tacos, if you eat too much of them.


When can another liquid sweetener be substituted for corn syrup in a recipe?

Like the aforementioned chocolate sauce, the corn syrup is there for the shine and body. Not to prevent crystallization. So you can use another liquid sweetener, although I’d use one that was mild-flavored (like agave) or close to neutral, to keep the chocolate flavor pronounced.

I can’t think of any cake recipes that have corn syrup in them, but my Butterscotch-Pecan Cookie Cups uses it to keep the batter smooth and to make sure the cookies will caramelize properly in the oven. In a recipe like that, I would not use another liquid sweetener.


When can one not substitute something for the corn syrup called for in a recipe?

For candy making, I strongly suggest sticking to the recipe. If a recipe calls for boiling a sugar syrup, unless specified, stick to using corn syrup. Especially ones cooked to a higher temperature. Honey, and the like, tend to burn when cooked down, so care should be taken to avoid that.

If the recipe calls for cooking a syrup to a relatively low temperature (below 230F, or 110C), you can experiment with other liquid sweeteners, but I can’t advise in each and every case. You’ll just have to try it and see.


If one wants to substitute another liquid sweetener, such as corn syrup, honey, or golden syrup, for granulated sugar, what proportion can one use?

In general, liquid sweeteners should be used in a 3/4s proportion to granulated sugar if substituting. That is, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, use 3/4 cup honey, or another liquid sweetener. If baking a cake or cookies, lower the baking temperature 25ºF and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup per cup of liquid sweetener you’re using.

If substituting another liquid sweetener for corn syrup, use equal amounts.


Why do some recipes for ice creams and sorbets have corn syrup in them?

I very rarely use corn syrup in sorbets, and don’t use it in ice creams. Because it has more viscosity than sugar, some recipes call for corn syrup to keep the churned and frozen sorbets and ice creams smoother and creamier.

In my recipes, this is infrequently done in sorbets that have a lot of water, such as lemon, lime, or grape sorbets, which tend to freeze very hard and get icy. If a recipe calls for corn syrup, it’s usually a minimum quantity. In those cases, another liquid sweetener can be used, or granulated sugar. If using sugar, increase the amount by 25%.


What can be used if corn syrup isn’t available where I live?

Glucose is what most professionals use and can be substituted 1 for 1. It can come from different sources, including corn or wheat. You can look for it online or visit a professional baking supply store in your area.

Further Reading and Related Links:

Looking at the Health Claims of Agave Nectar (Wall Street Journal)

Corn Syrup (Culinate)

A Recipe to Replace Corn Syrup: How to Make Cane Syrup (The Kitchn)

Corn Syrup vs HFCS (Serious Eats)

On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee

King Corn (Documentary film)

Care for Some Mercury with Your Oatmeal? (The Ethicurian)

Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup Making Us Fat? (Seattle Times)

Karo Corn Syrup (FAQs)

A Few Favorite Sweeteners (101 Cookbooks)

Agave Nectar: the High-Fructose Health Food Fraud (Natural News)

The Omnivore’s Dilemna by Michael Pollen

The Whole Truth About High-Fructose Corn Syrup (Consumer Reports)

A Sweetener with a Bad Rap (New York Times)

Agave Nectar: A Sweetener for Any Occasion (Popular Science)

Corn Syrup (Wikipedia)

Glucose (Wilton)

Agave Nectar (Amazon)

Agave-Sweetened Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe

Lyle’s Golden Syrup (Amazon)

American Baking in Paris

Agave-Sweetened Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe

Scoop of Chocolate Ice Cream

As a cookbook author, whenever you do a cooking demonstration, there’s always ‘The Question’. It’s the one that’s the most frequently asked when you’re doing classes on a book tour. For me it’s often “Can that be frozen?”

Since my freezer is usually so crammed with stuff I can’t imagine wedging in a multi-layer cake amongst all the rock-hard frozen madness that I call “my freezer”…except for now, because I came home from the country last weekend and found my freezer door had nudged itself open, or more likely I accidentally left it ajar in my haste to get outta town, and when I came home, my freezer looked like an Antarctic blizzard had happened in there and had to be completely cleaned out…so now there’s plenty of room and I can start jamming it full all over again.

Anyhow, when you write a book completely devoted to frozen desserts and ice cream you can smugly think to yourself, “Ha! I’ve nipped that one in the bud.” Of course, all ice cream can be frozen. But little did I realize something insidious had taken ahold of my fellow Americans. “Can I use Splenda?” was The Question I was getting.

I don’t use artificial sweeteners in my cooking and don’t know how they behave so I’m not going to dole out advice on how to use them. But some people can’t have highly-refined or white sugar for health reasons, so I told those folks I’d “get back to them on that” – which I’m doing here and now. I wanted to come up with a recipe for ice cream-lovers who are looking for a sugar-free option that tastes every bit as good as regular ice cream. And this is it.

Chocolate Ice Cream

After my last book tour ended, I jettisoned home and decided to come up with a top-drawer recipe for Sugar-Free Chocolate Ice Cream that used no artificial ingredients. I made a trip to my local health food store in Paris, picked up a jar of agave nectar, and got churning.

I decided to create sugar-free chocolate ice cream, since the luscious, silky-smooth taste of dark chocolate was probably something that most folks on sugar-restricted diets were craving. But I didn’t want to make something that tasted like just an acceptable substitute for chocolate ice cream: I wanted it to be the real thing, smooth and creamy, with the luxurious flavor of rich, dark chocolate.

If you live outside the United States, you can often find tablets of unsweetened chocolate at some chocolate shops and specialty stores. In France it’s usually labeled, 100% pâte de cacao—100% chocolate paste.

Chocolate Ice Cream Bowl

Agave-Sweetened Chocolate Ice Cream
About 1 quart (1 liter)

Since the custard is made without sugar, keep an eye on things as it will cook rather quickly. You can either use a flame-tamer or cook the custard in bain-marie, a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, to avoid overcooking if you’ve never made a custard before. And because I don’t like washing dishes, I use the same saucepan for cooking the custard that I used for dissolving and blooming the cocoa powder, I simply scrape it as clean as possible and use it again for making the custard.

If you would like to reduce the quantity of agave nectar here, you can cut the amount to ½ cup (120 ml) if you wish.

  • 10 tablespoons (155 ml) agave nectar
  • 2 ounces (55 g) unsweetened chocolate, very finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup (35 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)
  • 3 cups (750 ml) half-and-half*, divided
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • pinch of salt

1. In a small saucepan, warm the agave syrup with the unsweetened chocolate over the lowest heat possible, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and transfer mixtures to a large bowl. Set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, add 1½ cups (375 ml) of the half-and-half and whisk in the cocoa powder. Cook over moderate heat until the mixture begins to bubble, then simmer for 30 seconds, whisking frequently, making sure to break up any clumps of cocoa powder.

3. Remove from heat and scrape the mixture into the bowl with the chocolate-agave mixture. Stir them together, then set a mesh strainer over the top.

4. Add the remaining half-and-half to the saucepan with a pinch of salt, turn on the heat, and when warm, slowly pour the warm half-and-half into the yolks whisking constantly, then pour the warmed yolks back into the saucepan.

5. Cook, stirring constantly over moderate heat, until the mixture becomes steamy and thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read about 170F degrees. (76C).

6. Pour the mixture through the strainer into the chocolate mixture.

7. Stir, then let cool a few minutes until tepid. Once it’s not super hot, whiz the mixture in a blender for ten seconds until it’s smooth and velvety. (Never blend very hot liquids in a blender since it creates a hot vortex and can cause the liquid to blast out of the top.)

8. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Related Posts and Recipes

Chocolate Ice Cream

Buying an Ice Cream Maker

What is half-and-half?

Freezing ice cream without a machine

Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream

Salt-Roasted Peanut Recipe

“You’re A Winner!” said the email.

“You’ve won a Katana Series Nakiri knife, from Calphalon.”

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While I seem to be the quintessential person who never wins anything (except the fabulous no-expense paid trip to Paris that I’m enjoying), and I don’t remember putting my business card in the raffle fishbowl, I was happy to accept. And the knife made a lovely addition to my Katana collection, joining the smaller one that I already owned. I’ve been using both, and they’re really rather incredible knifes. I love the handles, and the blades are scary-sharp. Which is good.

While we’re on the subject of deadly weapons, let’s talk about salt. Everyone is scared of salt.

I don’t pay much attention to hot-shot chefs, but I’d read that Thomas Keller was once asked what makes a good cook, and he replied, “salt”. He summed it all up in one simple word, and that’s truly what it all comes down to…and that’s why he’s a great chef and I bought his French Laundry book even though there’s no way in h-e-double-toothpicks I’m ever going to make anything from it. But if he can use it, so can you.
So no matter what you do to food, whether you whip it into a foam, toss it on the grill, spend 17 hours cutting it into little itty-bitty cubes that people wait 6 months to taste, or churn it in your ice cream maker, salting makes all the difference in cooking and baking.

A lot of people are afraid of salt, citing health concerns. Yet experts tell us that if you stay away from pre-packaged convenience foods, the average person only consumes about 1 1/2 teaspoons to salt per day. Although I should talk…I can’t have enough of it and sometimes buy it by the kilo. So maybe at this point you’d be wise to just scroll down to the recipe.

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I mostly sprinkle top-quality salt on top of things, as a finish, where you’re going to taste it rather than adding it all at the beginning of the recipe where it can get lost. Whatever salt you use, I recommend coarse salt crystals, since the larger pieces take longer to dissolve, thereby giving your palate more time to experience the complexity of flavors, rather than just dissolving into a salty mouthful like fine salt does. Plus most commercial salt has additives which give the salt a bitter, acrid taste.

If you don’t know what fleur de sel is, you should. It’s fine crystals of salt that’s hand-harvested in marshes in Brittany, off the Atlantic coast of France. Although lots of fleur de sel-style salts have been showing up from Italy, Portugal, and elsewhere, the best fleur de sel is from the Guérande. I use it on everything; its fine, delicate taste is best appreciated when sprinkled over things, as mentioned above, rather than dissolved (like in soups) so it’s best to save it for places where it can be appreciated.

Fleur de sel is admittedly pricier than ordinary table salt, but when people balk at paying 5 or 6€ for a container of salt, that will cost them pennies (or centimes per day), they get all freaked-out. (Hey, it’s cheaper than gas, and lasts longer.) Just a last-minute flurry over a slab of foie gras or dark chocolate bark will give it a curious, other dimension. When you start using it, you’ll be as hooked as I am. You’ll never go back to ordinary table salt again.

I only buy fleur de sel harvested in Brittany, and I’ve recently befriended a récolteur who invited me to his marshes this summer to rake and harvest salt. His salt is incredible; light and flaky, with the fine, delicate taste of the sea. He sells his salt in Paris and I always tell guests to stock up here, since it’s one of the true bargains in Paris. A 250 g bag costs just 4€ ($5), which translates to .0136986 cents per day.

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So I hereby give you permission to spend a little bit more on salt. It will improve your cooking, just like upgrading to a good olive oil will improve your salads (and really, how much do you use?) If you don’t believe me, take this simple test: Taste a few grains of fleur de sel. Then taste a few grains of commercially-available fine table salt. I can almost guarantee that you’ll never use ordinary table salt again.

This is one of my favorite recipes for using fleur de sel, crispy Salt-Roasted Peanuts. These are terrific with cocktails or aperitifs, but I also like to enrobe them in bittersweet chocolate and if you’re making Hot Fudge Sundaes, they’re also dynamite sprinkled over the top.

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Salt-Roasted Peanuts

  • 2 cups (300 g) raw peanuts
  • 1/4 cup (80 g) light corn syrup, agave nectar, or rice syrup
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) light brown sugar or cassonade
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).

Lightly oil a baking sheet or line it with a silicone baking mat.

In a bowl, mix together the peanuts, corn syrup, and light brown sugar, until the peanuts are well-coated.

Sprinkle the salt over the peanuts and stir just a few times, but not enough to dissolve the salt.

Spread the peanuts evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring three times during baking, until the nuts are deep-golden brown and glazed.

Cool completely, then store in an airtight container immediately, to preserve their crispness.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Makes 2 cups.

FAQ’s

I can’t find raw peanuts.

You can use roasted, unsalted peanuts, and reduce the baking time to 15 minutes. I buy raw peanuts in Asian markets.

Can I use other nuts?

I never have, but let me know how they turn out if you do.

What if I can’t get light corn syrup where I live?

Use glucose, available at professional pastry supply shops.

Can I use honey or golden syrup?

Yes, but they’ll be stickier and not as crisp. See the linked post under ‘corn syrup’.

Can I use another salt?

You can use any coarse sea salt, but choose one that’s light-tasting. I like Maldon salt from England very much, or you can use kosher salt.