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Jul. 1st, 2012


Pool Closed Ice Cream


My poor husband and kiddo headed to the pool today in 90-degree weather around 5 p.m., only to find the doors closed. The power had gone out during a wind storm around noon, and they sent all the guards home and closed down for the whole day. I was at the store gathering salad makings to go with some pizza for dinner, and got the distress call from Bill via IM... so I offered to run another batch of ice cream as a consolation prize, and to let Linc choose the flavor. The request was for mint chocolate chip, which sounded great... I have a big ol' chocolate mint plant going bananas in my container herb garden, so it needed to be harvested anyway.

I went with the mint-infused milk recipe from The Perfect Scoop, but found it online for you here. I don't think I had a whole two cups of mint, but it sure tasted minty enough before I mixed it with the egg yolks. This is the first custard recipe I've tried, but I only had 3 of the 5 eggs it called for, so it's going to be a light custard (we get our milk and egg delivery tomorrow morning, yay Oberweis home delivery service! The way I'm doing the chocolate chips is the Stracciatella method... melted chocolate added in a thin dribble at the end of the mixing process to make tiny shards of dark bits.

It was still eggy even with only three eggs... and I don't like the combo of eggs and mint. I do love milk and mint, though, so next time I'll try this Philadelphia-style (eggless). I also loved doing the Straccialtella chocolate chip technique, even though it took the ice cream from almost-scoopable back to mushy (but a little time in the freezer will fix that). My home-grown chocolate mint gave a lovely flavor, and I wish I'd squeezed the leaves more instead of just pressing them with a spoon (I read later that this can give you not only more mint flavor but a pretty pale green color too). And, along with the pizza, this treat helped cheer up the sad boy just beautifully. Mission accomplished!

Jun. 30th, 2012


Mojito Granita

Mojito granita

The Inspiration:
It's been hot around here, and the perfect evening cool-down drink in my book is the mojito. Bill perfected this drink last summer, when I made sure he was stocked with the proper muddler and juicer as well as limes and mint. When I was paging through the Perfect Scoop, I saw a recipe for a Mojito Granita, and decided that needed to be in the lineup soon.

Today, I ran out of cream as well as most of our fresh fruit... but we had two hard little limes. My mint was going crazy in the backyard, so I figured that since I wasn't able to do an ice cream, I'd try my hand at the granita.

The Recipe:

David Lebovitz' Mojito Granita recipe was printed over in the Guardian, so you can get it from there. I had friends over, one of whom had never tried a mojito, so we played games and chatted for a few hours. I got up every 30 or 45 minutes to fork-fluff the granita, and finally it was a nice slushy consistency.

The Results:
This stuff was delicious, although the wait time for the treat was pretty abysmal compared to the instant gratification of the fresh drink version. The mojito newbie proclaimed the mixture to be refreshing, and both my guests ate it up quickly.

We had some red peppers, onions, beans, jalapenos, green chilies, salsa, corn, garlic and cumin over rice for dinner with cheese and sour cream, and the mojito granita was a perfect foil to the spicy meal. Then I had a scoop of the Aztec chocolate from last night, and my evening was perfecto... picante pero muy bueno!


Aztec Hot Chocolate

The Inspiration:
I had wanted to do a chocolate-based ice cream from the get-go, so I paged through the books to see what was there. I came across the Aztec Hot Chocolate Ice Cream in Lebovitz' book, and it sounded perfect.

The Recipe:
I've been pulling a lot from this book (The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz), and I didn't make any major changes to the recipe, so I wouldn't feel right just copying it (but a little Googling would have a version of it for you if you really need it). I do want to encourage you to go ahead and grab a copy of this... it's less than $13 from Amazon and well worth every penny.

I used Ghirardelli cocoa, and dug into my precious dwindling stock of Scharffenberger* bittersweet chocolate, along with some Spice House ancho chili powder (smoky and sweet).

(*In case you didn't know, Scharffenberger was sold to Hersheys a few years ago, and now is artisan in name only... absolutely heartbreaking. I'm so glad I got a chance to tour their original factory several times.)

The Results:
Since I tried to use the bucket twice in one day, I don't think it totally froze again (even though I couldn't hear any sloshing noises coming from it). Or perhaps I didn't let the mix chill as long as I should have. In any case, after 35 minutes, the mixture wasn't becoming any harder and I pulled the plug on the operation. It's hardening in the freezer beautifully, and I am certain that if I hadn't been impatient, it would have set up just fine.

But oh... the flavor! The rich dark chocolate with the smoky ancho chili and the background hum of cinnamon produces a rousing chord of flavors that lingers and warms you despite the chilly temperature. I had a similar treat at Christopher Elbow's wonderful Glacé the last time I was in Kansas City, and this spicy little number echos the memory perfectly.

This one is a keeper, friends.

(ETA photo)

Cheesecake Shot

Cherry Cheesecake

The Inspiration:
The fruit bowl really was bare, except for a few forlorn-looking apples, so I went back to the pantry and spied a can of Solo cherry pie filling that had been stuck in there for at least a year. Hmm, thinks I to myself. Cherry ice cream> Mmmmaybe... then I remembered that we had a couple pints of sour cream to use up. Sour cream and cherries made me think of cheesecake, and so I went looking for a cherry cheesecake recipe. I found a few online, but none included the chunks of crust that I wanted.

Chocolate "dirt" or "soil" is kind of a trendy thing these days. The Momofuku Milk Bar book had a whole section on these milky crumbles that they included in desserts. But I didn't see a crumble that matched what I had in mind: the graham cracker crust of a cheesecake. So I made one up!

The Recipe:

Cherry Cheesecake Ice Cream
(My recipe, with an assist from Momofuku Milk Bar and The Perfect Scoop)

1/2 packet of graham crackers, crumbled
1/8 cup dry instant milk powder
1 tablespoon sugar (I used vanilla sugar, stored with spent vanilla bean pods)
Generous pinch salt
1/8 cup melted butter
1/8 cup cream

Mix the dries together, then mix the wets and combine. Toss with hands and spread onto cookie sheet lined with a Silpat. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes (don't overbrown). They will be moist when they come out of the oven; don't worry, they crisp right up. Break into small bits.

Ice Cream:
8 oz. packaged of cream cheese, cut into chunks
Zest from one lemon
1 cup sour cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 small can prepared cherry filling

Puree all ingredients EXCEPT cherry filling together in food processor, and chill for one hour. Mix according to your machine's instructions. Towards the end of the mixing time, add the can of cherry filling and the cooled crumbles. Run the machine just long enough to barely incorporate the cherries and crumbles.

The Results:
This turned out to be a very rich and delicious dessert, and everyone loved it. It was a bit fussy, with the extra level of messiness with the crumble, but the effect was worth it. And I had made a double batch of the crumbles, so we have leftovers for topping or another recipe in the future. A win-win!

Luscious and Lickable

Leapin' Lemurs

The Inspiration:
We had friends visiting this day who could not eat diary or chocolate. I decided to go with a coconut-milk based mix, flavored with some fresh fruit I'd gotten.

The Recipe:

Summer Fruit Frost
(my own recipe, dairy-free)
Pint fresh raspberries
Four ripe nectarines
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 can Chaokoh coconut milk

Simmer the fruit and sugar in the water until sugar dissolves and fruit is mushy (not long if you used ripe fruit). Press through a fine sieve and discard seeds and skins. Stir in lemon juice and coconut milk, chill for a few hours and process in your ice cream machine.

The Results:
This was a hit with our friends, so it's a winner! The kids all asked for seconds, and the remains were getting soft, so I decided to pile the goo into some popsicle molds. Worked great, and I will definitely use the coconut milk trick for non-dairy friends in the future.

Peanut Butter Pow!

The Inspiration:
The fruit bowl was pretty empty except for a few bananas. I didn't feel like doing a banana-based ice cream, but I wanted to go with something rich and maybe chocolatey. I browsed the pantry shelf and my eyes lit upon a jar of peanut butter. A stash of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups sealed the deal.

I read through more of The Perfect Scoop and found that there are French (egg-based) and Philadelphia (no egg) styles of ice cream. The Milk Bar book used gelatin to create a smooth mouthfeel, but one of our family members is an avowed vegetarian, so that was right out. I figured, with the heat, I'd stick with the Philadelphia version for now, so I looked for something along those lines.

To my surprise, I found a non-egg, non-gelatin peanut-butter cup recipe in the little handbook that came in the box with the Cuisinart ice cream maker. A few adjustments and we were ready to go!

The Recipe:

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream
(adapted from the Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Ice Cream Maker recipe booklet)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped chocolate peanut-butter cup candies

Beat peanut butter and sugar together with a hand mixer until smooth. Whisk in milk until sugar is dissolved. Stir in cream and vanilla. Pour into machine and mix 25-35 minutes. Add chopped candy at the end of the mixing time.

The Results:
I heard the pitch of the motor start to change as we got to the 20-minute mark, and I should have stopped the machine then. I waited until 25 minutes and added the candy, but I think I may have over-mixed it and started heading the ice cream towards butter (can you even do that?). In any case, this stuff was VERY thick and rich. We sliced up the aforementioned banana into our scoops and they were just right.

I could see doing peanut butter again, maybe without the candy. It didn't need the super-sweet chunks... it was already nice and rich, the cloying sweetness of the candy didn't help. Still... no complaints from the troops and every bit was devoured that night.

Jun. 29th, 2012


Ice Cream Avalanche!

In The Beginning:
My very kind in-laws offered to buy us an ice cream maker recently. After much research and discussion, we finally went with the Cuisinart automatic version. We briefly considered the professional sort that has a compressor and can be used to make several batches back-to-back, but I decided that was a bit of overkill (and possibly just a leetle too tempting)... as well as too expensive and too big a footprint in the kitchen. We DID go with the larger 2-quart model, and so far I'm very glad we did... I've made five batches so far, and none have survived more than 24 hours.

Coincidentally, I'd checked out Momofuku Milk Bar, a dessert book, from the library the same week, and it had some ice cream ideas mixed in with the other luscious treats. And I also got a copy of David Lebovitz' The Perfect Scoop to go with the maker... I've been following his blog for a while, and his gluten-free brownie recipe has significantly upped my baker cred among my Chicago friends. I spent several impatient days during a scorching Chicago heat wave paging through the Milk Bar book and dreaming of frozen goodies.

It finally arrived, and my joy was tempered by the fact that the bucket needed to spend enough time in the freezer to solidify the liquid within... I probably opened the freezer once an hour to check. Late that night, it seemed to me to be free of any slosh, and I decided to go for my first batch.


I didn't want to muck around with eggs and custard that late at night, and, after paging through the Perfect Scoop, settled on a simple batch of vanilla frozen yogurt to break in our new toy. I've been making our own yogurt lately, but a half gallon of milk only makes about a quart of yogurt, and I'd been eating it regularly... I didn't have enough homemade left to freeze up. However, I did happen to have a full container of Mountain High plain yogurt, the full-fat version that I used to create my own culture... we'd had guests for breakfast the day before, and I grabbed it thinking we could put it on our fruit salad. We wound up not even cracking it open, so I had a whole quart to play with.

Turns out frozen yogurt is dead easy and delicious... and a great start to my foray into icy delights!


Basic Vanilla Frozen Yogurt
(adapted from a recipe in The Perfect Scoop)
One quart plain yogurt, full fat
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla (I used our homemade stuff... just split vanilla beans soaked in vodka)

Stir together until sugar is dissolved. Chill for an hour. Freeze according to your machine's directions (or, if you have no machine, just pour into a wide flat dish and pop into the freezer... whip it up with a fork every half hour until it gets to the consistency you like, and you're good to go!). Devour!

Of course, my freezer bucket wasn't quite as frozen as I'd hoped, and the yogurt was a bit goopy after 45 minutes in the machine. It was still delicious, and we put the remains left into the freezer overnight. Surprisingly, the next day, the yogurt had firmed up but not frozen into a solid block... it was still quite scoopable. I can definitely see this one happening over and over with fruit and goodies stirred in!

The last few days have been great fun, so I thought I'd try to keep a journal of flavors for a while... at least as long as I'm doing a batch each day. I didn't get a photo of the first few batches, but I'll try to better document the subsequent attempts. So grab a spoon and please join me on our delicious journey!

Apr. 2nd, 2011


Sourdough, continued

More sourdough behind the cut...Collapse )

Today's loaf: the basic KA sourdough with pecans to take to a friend's house for dinner.

Mar. 21st, 2011


Sourdough 2.0 (and 2.1)

Further adventures in sourdough...Collapse )

Mar. 18th, 2011


Adventures in Sourdough, Part One

I was at an SCA event a few weekends back, and after a lovely conversation with a very passionate breadsmith, I was gifted some dried sourdough starter, a version that he called "Illinois Sweet."

I've tried once before to get a wild starter going, but it was a pretty dismal failure (and possibly a source of some spectacular biotoxins). This time, I carefully woke up the starter and fed it daily. I followed the directions to the letter, and after about four days I had an overflowing little bowl of bubbly, sticky, yeasty starter... wicktory!

So I decided to try some bread with my little bowl of starter. I dug through my copies of Uprisings (from my Blue Mango baking days) and a few other cookbooks on our shelves before I settled down with the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion Cookbook (a gift from the luminous cheesepuppet, thank you SO MUCH!).

I decided to go with a part-whole-wheat Pain au Levain, a very basic flour-starter-water-salt hearth bread. I added some toasted pecans right at the end of the mixing, with fond memories of the Sacramento Baking Company's sour wheat walnut bread.

When I proofed the bread, I made a guess as to the best vessel to use... and I guessed wrong. I had decided to go with a single large loaf instead of two smaller boules, and used the largest glass mixing bowl I own (my mom's old Pyrex bowl), lined with a cotton kitchen towel (fabric, not terrycloth). The shape was too rounded, and this much dough really needed something wider. Also, when I slashed the top, only one slash was deep enough to do any good, so it only spread out along the one axis when it baked... which meant it looked like it was mooning me!

I used the wooden peel sprinkled with semolina and the preheated baking stone to bake it, and that turned out very well. I used a cast-iron pan with water to create a humid oven, but I didn't have a spray bottle handle to spray the surface of the boule before I put it in the oven... I sprinkled it with water from my hands, but I suspect not enough.

Since it was so thick in the middle, there was a bit in the center that was still uncooked while the outer crust was very brown and hard. But the stuff that WAS done was really delicious. It's a lot sweeter than I imagined it would be, even though I knew that the Illinois sourdoughs are never going to be as tangy as the San Francisco versions. Still, it's a young starter and I'm new at this... I suspect I'll be able to get it a little more sour with some age and experience.


I transferred my starter to a larger bowl... I had to use almost the entire bowl of starter for this loaf, so I clearly needed a larger amount to work with. I've been feeding it up, and it's been warmer all this week, so I'll try again this weekend and see what happens. I also went to the thrift store and got a nice wide wicker basket for proofing, and I'll see if I can get a cheap spray bottle too.

I'm also looking forward to some sourdough waffles in the near future!

Anyway, I wanted to document this journey into the land of sourdough... has anyone else out there had a successful experience with starters and sourdoughs? I'd love to hear about it!

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