Tag Archives: Ice cream

Potential

Every year, I eagerly anticipate the arrival of rhubarb. I simply cannot wait for it to appear at the market so that I can swoop in and take a few pounds of crimson stalks home with me. I obsess over it, as my friends and family can attest. Then an odd thing happens: I freak out over what to make with my bounty. The potential paralyzes me. It has to be something that lives up to the utter brilliance of the tart and tangy and gloriously pink rhubarb. The anticipation nearly kills me every year only to have the reality stop me cold in my tracks.


DSCN4475

I don’t always succeed in making a showstopper. Sometimes things are just okay, like the rhubarb shortbread bars I tried to make recently. They looked horrendous, all grey and sludge-like, but mostly just tasted like butter and sugar without a single note of rhubarb. Edible, but unimpressive. Other times I downright fail. Caramelized rhubarb-upside down cake with cornmeal and buttermilk? Not from this kitchen. I can’t even begin to tell you all the ways that didn’t work out. Somehow, these attempts are even more devastating in light of all the great things that I have done with this vegetable-disguised as a fruit. I can do better than this.

They also, without doubt, feed into the vicious cycle in my head of placing rhubarb on a pedestal and expecting it never to tumble. I’m an over-thinker and this particular trait constantly gets in my own way. It’s no different with starting my own laboratory and becoming a professor. This goal has been hanging over my head for the entirety of my adult life and now that it’s in my grasp, I worry that I won’t live up to the promise and to my own abilities.

Sidenote: The line ‘I know he can get the job – but can he DO the job?’ from Joe Vs. the Volcano has been playing on a loop in my head. After watching this movie when I was a kid, my dad and I used to quote this constantly.

photo

I’m supposed to be buying equipment and hiring people. The university gave me a staggering amount of money in a generous show of support of my research potential. I can imagine that for some, this must feel like being a kid in a candy shop, but, for some reason, I am hesitant to jump right in. The fear of failure is overwhelming. How does one get past a crisis of confidence? It’s not as if I haven’t been working in a yeast lab for the past decade, accumulating and storing experience and knowledge for just this thing.

Is it because I am female? Or simply an over-achiever and perfectionist? Perhaps it has to do with my current context in Minneapolis (I’m one of the last in a lab that has relocated halfway across the world, a situation that makes me simultaneously feel completely independent and utterly abandoned.) It’s likely a little of all these things. And to complicate matters further, the feelings of fear are are intimately paired with an unbridled excitement for the future. In the end, I think my strategy will be go with what I know, but push it to the edge. It’s a perspective that suits me well in my research, in my style and in my food.

DSCN4472

Rhubarb rosewater ice cream sandwiched between two thin and crispy oatmeal-coconut cookies. Edgy, yet entirely approachable. It’s a riff on my take for Grabbers and worth a re-visit. In the years since I published the first, I know a fair amount more about ice cream and even something about the cookie characteristics best suited to sandwiching. Not to mention a look back on my musing regarding the many (many!) colleges and universities is timely as I prepare for my move to Emory.  The originals are good, but I think these are better.

Rhubarb rosewater ice cream sandwiches
makes about a dozen
**********
Rhubarb rosewater ice cream
1 lb rhubarb, diced
cup honey
juice from one lime
2 tablespoons rosewater
 
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 ½ oz cream cheese
teaspoon sea salt
cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
 
In a small saucepan, cook rhubarb, honey and lime juice over medium-low heat until rhubarb completely breaks down, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in rosewater. Set aside.
Mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch, until dissolved. Set aside. Whisk cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Set aside.
 
In a medium pot, combine remaining milk, cream, sugar and honey. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and pour through mesh sieve. Return to pot and whisk in cornstarch slurry, cooking until slightly thickened, about a minute. Remove from heat. Gradually pour the hot milk mixture into the bowl with the cream cheese, whisking constantly until smooth. Pour through mesh sieve to remove any clumps. Stir in rhubarb. Chill mixture thoroughly.
 
Churn ice cream base in ice cream maker. Freeze at least 4 hours.
 
**********
Thin and Crispy Oatmeal-Coconut Cookies
5 oz (1 cup) all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons butter, softened but slightly colder than room temperature
7 oz (1 cup) granulated sugar
1 ¾ oz (¼ cup) brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¾ old fashioned oats
2 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut
 
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. 
 
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside. Mix together butter and both sugars at medium-low speed until just combined. Increase speed to medium and continue to beat until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl as needed. Add egg and vanilla and beat on medium low until fully incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until just incorporated and smooth. Gradually add oats and coconut and mix until well incorporated. Give dough a final stir to remove any flour pockets and evenly distribute all ingredients.
 
Working with 2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll into balls and place on baking sheet. Using fingertips, gently press each dough ball to ¾ – ½ inch thickness. Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are deep golden brown, edges are crisp and centers yield to slight pressure when pressed, around 13 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cookies cool completely.
 
**********
To assemble sandwiches: Take ice cream out of the freezer about half an hour before assembly and let it soften slightly. Place a generously sized scoop onto the backside of a cookie and top with a second. Wrap in wax paper and store in the freezer. Enjoy at will.
Advertisements

A long time coming

Not all the ice creams I make are swoon-worthy. Some are interesting and pair well with certain desserts, but can’t stand on their own. Some are fine, but are only that, and don’t quite hit the right note. Some, I’m too impatient for and I end up curdling the custard, or don’t let chill thoroughly before *trying* to churn. I’ve yet to make the perfect chocolate ice cream – it’s texture problem I haven’t yet sorted out. Some, and it’s a select few (I’m looking at you, Salted Caramel and Bourbon Brown Sugar), are simply divine. This one rises to that prestigious position: Toasted Coconut with Roasted Strawberry Swirl. I’ve now made it more times than I can count.

DSCN4427

Regardless of the less-than-stellar attempts I’ve encountered along the way, I adore making ice cream. A pursuit that people are unduly impressed by.

It’s delayed gratification at its finest and not for everyone. It requires an investment in some specialty (and some argue, unwieldy) equipment and is a serious time commitment. This particular ice cream requires a multitude of time-consuming steps. You could, much more easily, and certainly more quickly, run to the market and pick up a pint should the whim strike.

DSCN4348

But me, I like the process. Making the base, infusing the flavor, letting it develop (toasted coconut!), while contrasting the tastes and textures (slow roasted strawberry!), knowing that the payoff will be not only sweet, but also long lasting. (I can’t be the only one constantly astonished that something that I spent hours or even days on, can be devoured in an instant … or has the shelf life of three days.) Ice cream, if my self-restraint can be relied upon, can live in my freezer for several weeks and savored by the spoonful.

DSCN4332

It’s striking to me how similar it is to my life in academics.

Time-consuming, check.
Unwieldy investment, check.
Unduly impressive, check.
Delayed gratification ……………………….
                                                            ………………………………….……………………..….. check.
 

And can have the sweetest of payoffs. Decadent and indulgent, for sure.

DSCN4423

I recently signed the papers accepting a tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor of Biology at Emory University. My first bona fide job since graduating college a full decade ago.  A job that real people  have actually heard of (i.e. those outside of academics, because really, who else knows what a postdoc is?). It’s kind of a big deal. It’s not for everyone. And, quite honestly, it’s the first thing in a very long time that I am proud of. Without doubt, worth stopping and savoring. (Even more honestly: I’ve rapidly transitioned from awe and wonderment to terrified and overwhelmed.)

DSCN4309

I probably could have done something different with my life that hasn’t required the sacrifices. I’ve relocated twice now, (and soon going to do it again) to far reaches of the country where I know not a single soul. I could probably have been making much more money than I have as a graduate student or as a postdoc. When I told my family of my decision to go to graduate school, I was met with skeptical looks and unasked questions of why I’d want to stay in school for even longer than I had. I could have gone to the market and bought the ice cream in the freezer section or even gone to the specialty shop and bought the artisanal, fancy-pants ice cream for $12. That may have satisfied my desires. But I didn’t. I developed the skills and acquired the equipment to create whatever kind of ice cream my heart desires. And will take that with me in the future.

A long time coming, indeed.

DSCN4421

Toasted Coconut Ice Cream with Roasted Strawberry Swirl
Makes about 1 quart
 
***********
Toasted Coconut Ice Cream
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 ½ cups heavy cream, divided
¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split
5 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons rum
 
Roasted Strawberry Swirl
 1 lb strawberries, halved or quartered (depending on size)
3 tablespoons honey
**********

For ice cream: Spread coconut flakes on a baking dish. Toast at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, until toasted and fragrant. In a medium saucepan, combine milk, ½ cup cream, ½ cup sugar, salt, toasted coconut and vanilla bean. Heat until steam starts to rise, cover and remove from heat. Let coconut and vanilla steep for 1 hour. Pass mixture through mesh strainer and return to saucepan. Whisk together egg yolks and remaining ¼ cup sugar in a large bowl. Rewarm the infused dairy mixture and slowly whisk in the egg yolks. Continue to heat until mixture is thickened. Strain again, into the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream. Chill thoroughly. Stir in rum and churn according to manufacturers instructions.

For the strawberries: In a large baking dish, gently toss strawberries and honey. Bake at 300 degrees for two hours, until juices are very thick. Puree and pass through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds. Chill thoroughly.

Layer the churned ice cream and strawberry puree in a freezer proof container. Freeze for at least 4 hours before serving. Because of the relatively high alcohol content, the ice cream will be fairly soft and has a two-fold benefit: easy to scoop and a touch of pina colada.

 

The truce is over…

DSCN3203

Winter and I had a truce this year – and I think we had a good run. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was happy with winter, but this is the first year in Minneapolis where I haven’t been actively angry with it. I consider this in and of itself to be major progress and a huge step towards actually admitting that I live here.

DSCN3231

However, the truce is over. It’s mid-February and I desperately need winter to be over. No more snow, no more slush, no more ice and no more days below freezing. I’m finished with the whole damn thing. I want to pack my boots up and stow my sweaters away. I am anxiously awaiting the time when socks become optional and I live in my summer dresses. To be able to bike work again and see green in the trees. Eat fresh vegetables and drink beer outside. Breathe.

DSCN3215

But what I can do right now, despite the winter season is continue to make (and consume) copious amounts of ice cream. Of the Bourbon Brown Sugar variety. It’s cozy, complex and has me thinking about it constantly. There is a fair amount of alcohol in it, which not only brings out the bourbon overtones but does beautiful things to the consistency of this ice cream. (Alcohol freezes at lower temperatures than most freezers are set at). Spoons smoothly slip in to sneak another bite. It’s been my constant companion as I dream of far-away places.

DSCN3236

Bourbon Brown Sugar Ice Cream
makes ~1 quart
**********
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup + 3 Tablespoons brown sugar, divided
pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons bourbon
**********

Pour heavy cream in a large bowl, set mesh strainer atop and set aside. In a large pot heat the milk, 3/4 cup brown sugar and salt over medium heat until steam starts to rise. While the milk is heating, stir together egg yolks and remaining 3 tablespoons of brown sugar in a large bowl. Once the milk is warm, slowly pour it into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Transfer the milk-egg mixture back to pot and return to medium heat. Cook until mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Pour through mesh strainer into heavy cream. Stir in vanilla extract and bourbon. Chill thoroughly. Freeze in an ice cream maker.

Sunday afternoon

Sunday afternoon is just about the perfect time for ice cream. (Although I might also argue that ten-thirty Tuesday night or five on a Friday evening are  also the perfect times for ice cream.) This particular Sunday is no exception, in fact it might be the kind of Sunday that begs for an ice cream interlude.

Enter the ice cream of choice this sunny afternoon: Cherry-Almond.

This ice cream took me three days to make. And I don’t regret a moment of it. I took it slowly, working on a piece here (Tuesday morning), another piece there (Wednesday evening) and a finally getting around to finishing it (Thursday) so that I could enjoy it this weekend. It’s a recipe from a new ice cream book I bought, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, from the Bi-Rite Creamery in San Fransisco.

I was drawn to this recipe – mostly because cherries were on sale and this recipe doesn’t require me to pit them. But also because in the course of making it, it creates a cherry simple syrup that is simply delicious with sparkling water. Did I mention it’s also my friend, Laura’s, favorite flavor combinations? And Laura undoubtedly deserves something special. I’ve chewed her ear off over lunch or cocktails or splitting the CSA for the past several weeks while I was working on my manuscript. So I made up a batch of ice cream just for her – although I managed to squirrel some away for myself. I ate some this afternoon with such enthusiasm that I managed to drip all over myself.

But that’s okay. It’s Sunday and I still haven’t dressed for the day.

Cherry Almond Ice Cream
adapted ever-so-slightly from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones
makes ~1 quart
**********
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups cherries
 
3/4 cup raw slivered almonds
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks
*********

Poach the cherries:

In a small saucepan bring the 2 1/4 cups sugar and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat to a gentle simmer and add the cherries. Cook until the cherries are soft and cooked through, about 5 minutes. remove from heat and let the cherries cool completely in the syrup. Drain the cherries (Save that syrup … consider it a cherry simple syrup and is an excellent component of cream soda or cocktails) and squeeze the pits out of the fruit. Chop in 1/4-inch pieces.

Prepare the almonds:

Preheat oven to 350º. Spread almonds onto a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until the nuts are fragrant. Cool completely. Combine with 3/4 cup sugar in food processor and pulse until finely ground.
Infuse the cream:

Transfer the almond mixture to a large saucepan. Add the cream, milk and salt. Warm over low heat until small bubbles begin to form around the edges. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for ~45 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk the yolks to break them up. Set aside. Return the almond-dairy mixture over heat and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Slowly pour warm dairy into eggs, while whisking constantly. Pour back into the saucepan and cook until thick, stirring slowly with a heat-proof spatula. Strain through a very fine mesh strainer into a clean batter bowl. Chill thoroughly.

Freeze in an ice cream maker. Fold in chopped cherries.

Mint + Lemon + Ice Cream

It’s full blown summer. Temps are soaring into the 90s and the heat index is beyond that. I finally caved and bought two small window AC units for my apartment. Summertime life is about eighty seven times better with air conditioning. My cats agree.

Summertime is better with ice cream as well. Especially when it’s a combination of two of my very favorites, mint and lemon. What a marvelously magical combination of flavors. Bright and sunny, tart, and oh-so refreshing. You know how some ice creams leave a heavy film inside your mouth after your finished. Not so here. Wham-bam lemon right of the bat, juxtaposed by a sweet lighter-than-air creaminess (thanks to the use of half and half instead of heavy cream) and finishes with a mellow minty-ness. I predict this will become one of my summer staples. In fact, I am looking forward to it.

An added bonus: a minimum of time spent at the stove. A quick heat to warm up the dairy so as to steep the mint, but that’s it for cooking time. No eggs, no cornstarch, no cooking until thick. I have a beautifully fragrant pot of lemon balm that I clipped from, in addition to my mint plant, but feel free to double up on the mint in this recipe if you don’t have lemon balm.

Lemon-Mint Ice Cream
makes ~1 1/2 pints (3 cups)
**********
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup packed mint leaves
1/2 cup packed lemon balm leaves
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (~3 lemons)
**********

Heat half and half, sugar, and salt over medium heat until steam starts to rise. Remove from heat and submerge mint and lemon balm leaves. Cover and let steep for an hour. Strain through a mesh sieve, pressing hard on leaves to extract as much flavor as possible. Finely zest 2 lemons directly into mint-infused half and half. Juice lemons and whisk into dairy. Chill throughly. Freeze in ice cream maker.