Archive for the ‘Frozen dessert’ Category

Boston Pops

Boston Pops

Boston Pops

I like to loaf. Makes sense. I write (as often as possible) a blog about baking.

I’m sure you know where I’m going with this: indeed, the kind of loafing I’m talking about involves making a body-sized dent in my sofa, the white-noise hum of my air conditioner lulling me into a sweet, drooling afternoon nap. Ahhhh, summer.

I’d like to report that I will be spending the Fourth of July Holiday swinging in a hammock on the verandah of the amazing Hamptons beachfront hedge fund mansion of my friends Bill and Judy Cantwell. I’d LIKE to report that. Alas, Bill and Judy are mere figments of my imagination…and unfortunately, so is their amazing Hamptons beachfront hedge fund mansion. Ditto the hammock and verandah. (Don’t I have a rich, detailed inner life?)

Don’t be sad for me. Last year I actually did spend the Fourth of July at the beach front home of a couple of friends. Actually, water front would be more accurate: they live in Boston, right on the “hah-buh.” It was spectacular. We watched “Old Ironsides”—the famous revolutionary war frigate U.S.S. Constitution—sail by us and fire her cannons. Having grown up in Boston, I have to say that I was moved.

Many cities have their traditional Fourth of July celebrations. Here in the Big Apple we have the Macy’s Fireworks show in New York Harbor. Last year in Boston we discussed walking over the Charles River to watch the Boston Pops Orchestra play their annual outdoor concert. It turned out to be a lucky break that we stayed home as the concert was evacuated due to the threat of severe thunderstorms. (Mother Nature stole the spotlight. Again. What a ham.) This year I’ll be plopped on the aforementioned sofa, the orchestra will be on TV, and I’ll be screening “Yankee Doodle Dandy” starring Jimmy Cagney. Believe me, I’m already happy just thinking of this.

Part of planning for any really good staycation is, of course, the meals. So far the menu includes crab cakes. Let’s talk crab cakes for a moment, shall we? My recipe is (pardon the pun) a mashup of many recipes, with the most notable steal being the multi-colored diced peppers from Ina Garten. You can keep your panko breadcrumbs, by the way. A few years ago pure serendipity caused me to make my crab cakes with matzo meal, and the change has been permanent. Yes, matzo meal can be dense and gluey, but you end up getting the same binding qualities by using less. (Sadly, I still err on the side of cheaper crab meat—claw, not back fin. Hey, crab meat doesn’t grow on trees.)

Also on the menu will be the “Quintessential Chocolate Chip Cookies” Martha Rose Shulman wrote about recently in the New York Times. I have my own very proud recipe, but this one make a very good, straightforward cookie.

The thought of making Peppermint Stick Ice Cream is tempting…but I’m kind of stuck on fruit pops. I waited through a long, cold winter to road test the Zoku Popsicle maker some friends gave me as a gift, and it’s a lot of fun to use.

There are a couple of tricks to keep in mind. My Zoku makes one pop at a time, so I won’t be opening up shop any time soon. But that limitation kind of ratchets down the expectations. Instead of it being a big project, it becomes more of a little treat. Also, eliminate any fantasies of sugar-free pops. Since sugar freezes solid a lower temperature it is that ingredient that keeps the frozen pops just soft enough to slip out of the mold without too much of a fight. Leave out the sugar (as I did in one of my attempts at pop making) and your pops won’t budge. My red, white, and blue “Boston Pops” seen in the photo employed a simple lemonade recipe: fresh lemon juice, superfine sugar, and water. A drop of food coloring in the Zoku mold allowed me to indulge in the patriotic theme even though the pops were all the same tangy lemon flavor.

And yes, the red ones turned my tongue red: the sure sign of a well made Popsicle.


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Lord Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes-Benz

The chill of it all. Frozen Lemon Mousse

The chill of it all. Frozen Lemon Mousse

That chill you’ve been feeling was not just a prolonged winter. That was me giving my kitchen the cold shoulder.

Yes, we live differently here in New York. If someone has a kitchen, a real honest-to-goodness kitchen, for goodness sakes, it’s because they are wealthy or, like Peggy Olson, they were pioneers. I have a friend who has lived on West 80th Street since the late seventies. If, as the book says, “…to every thing there is a season, turn, turn, turn…” she has seen a lot of seasons and a lot of turns. She’s still there, but H&H Bagels? Gone. Broadway Nut Shop? Gone. The dance studio that became a rug store that became a Filene’s Basement that became a Syms? It’s a DSW. For now. Turn Turn Turn. (Zabars is still there. Long after Armageddon folks will still be lined up in there for smoked fish.)

People change and grow. The city changes. My kitchen? I still have to go outside to change my mind…buh-dump-bump.

I reached a point a few weeks ago where I just decided that my kitchen and I needed to take a break. As with any relationship, that usually means the party’s over. As with any New York relationship it usually means we’re still living together because one or both of us cannot, at this moment, move. (uhhhh, hint, the kitchen ‘aint going nowhere.)

Yet, this may be a good thing. Every now and then you should step back and make an honest appraisal of a problem and decide what you can do to fix things. So here, friends, is a picture of what would bring me some domestic bliss. Real world be damned.

  1. If my kitchen is too small, I suggest making it bigger. I think increasing its size ten-fold would suffice. For now.
  2. More counter space would be nice. In the case of my kitchen any counter space would be nice. I suggest an increase of several hundred percent.
  3. An automatic dishwasher. I don’t mind doing dishes. I’d just like a little help. Perhaps an intern like those folks on TV. (Yeah, Rachael Ray cleans up after they tape her show. I dare any of these folks –Martha, Rachael, Giada, Ina, Paula, that woman with the spiky blond hair (or the Guy with the spiky blond hair) – to devote an entire episode to just doing the dishes. We could make it a series where they compete to see who can clean a dirty kitchen fastest. I even have a name: “I’ll Wash / You Dry”. Cute, right?)
  4. A Blue Star range. It’s like the ubiquitous Viking range but it comes in several colors and configurations. I’m terrible at deciding on colors, so perhaps two Blue Star ranges would be best. Then I could “live with them” for a while and decide which one I like best.
  5. Two wall mounted ovens. Gas / convection. I don’t know which brand is best: make me an offer.
  6. Two All-Clad saucepans. One two quart, one four quart. I have the All-Clad skillets already and love them.
  7. Aww shucks, throw in a couple of All-Clad skillets too. You just never know when someone will drop by.
  8. A grill.
  9. A vent for the grill.
  10. A room with Metro shelves where I can store all of my kitchen…stuff. (You often see Ina Garten exiting hers with today’s very special key ingredient.) I believe this is called a pantry.
  11. One of those cooling racks on wheels they use in restaurants and hotel kitchens. I forget what they’re called in the trade, but you can slide about eight sheet pans into them and roll the whole thing around. Indispensable for anyone who likes to bake.
  12. A table for six—eight in a pinch—so that we can have an honest to goodness sit down dinner right in the kitchen. (For New Yorkers a sit down dinner means the floor.)

Correct me if I am wrong: I don’t think there’s anything particularly outlandish here. Do you?

In the meantime, I have devised a plan to get myself back into the groove with my kitchen, and you’ll be happy to hear that couples therapy is not in this plan. I’m going to select a few things that I can achieve with a minimum of space. Sheets and sheets of cookies seem out of the question for now. Cooler items that don’t require a lot of fussing would be good, so I started with a Frozen Lemon Mousse.

I made it in a spring form pan with an almond flour crust, but it would work well in little ramekins as an individual dessert. I chose the single, larger pan because that’s all that would fit in my freezer.

Uh-oh! Forgot something:

  1. An enormous refrigerator and freezer where everything is at eye level.

That’s the kind of chill I like.


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Scared Twixless

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

My Jack O’Lantern…this year

Please don’t let Kathleen Turner read this.

Ever since I saw the movie “Serial Mom” many years ago I have been apprehensive about doing things after Labor Day that she may deem inappropriate. (Savvy viewers may recall the scene from said movie where she has a rather lethal encounter with Patty Hearst regarding the wearing of white shoes after Labor Day.)

Yes, I am fully aware that the movie was a work of fiction, and that she will not be bludgeoning me if I break a seasonal rule, but this rather ghoulish movie has been on my mind because of Halloween.

I think I’ve had just about enough of Halloween already. I have a friend who starts serving Candy Corn before I’ve had a chance to finish shaking the beach sand out of my sneakers. We have noticed that a majority of Candy Corn being sold this year lists Mexico as its provenance. One can only posit a wild theory that this is somehow related to its apparent addictive qualities.

My yearly complaint? As a happy home baker I really cannot do much on Halloween. I cannot make Candy Corn. Why would I try? Yes I could frost cupcakes to look like candy corn. I could make Candy Corn-colored cocktails. Alas, I’m a failure at kitsch.

I’ve gone the cookie route in the past…happily and with excellent results. But it always comes down to the same question: On Halloween doesn’t everyone really want a KitKat bar? I cannot compete on their turf.

Here’s where breaking a rule after Labor Day comes in, albeit a rule of my own making. I don’t know why I have this rule—it may be a simple case of waist preservation—but I don’t make ice cream after Labor Day. A silly rule indeed, and like most rules, made to be broken.

This year my Jack O’Lantern will be Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream. Pumpkin Spice is on my brain of late due to some publicity about there being a shortage of the spices used. (Yes, this was news.) Every day when I make my Starbucks run I am greeted by huge window decals advertising Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Read that sentence again. Yes, I said “Every day when I make my Starbucks run…” Clearly I am a Starbucks fan. Sadly though, my brew of choice is black coffee; I simply cannot get into the big drinks they make that are topped off with swirls of whipped cream.  When I get my frequent drinker rewards and order a simple, humble black coffee, the folks behind the counter wrinkle their noses in collective disbelief and ask a unified “That’s it? And not even a venti?”

The truth is, I do love those drinks but to be even more truthful I must claim that for the same fat and calories I’d rather have a dish of ice cream.

Pumpkin Ice Cream can be tricky, as the ideal balance of flavors is really a matter of personal choice. My Mother’s guideline with anything pumpkin, including Pumpkin Pie, is that she likes it to taste like pumpkin.

I have an ice cream recipe that I really like—I used it this summer to make Peppermint Stick Ice Cream—so that’s my base. I merely substituted one cup of canned pumpkin for the peppermint candy. This recipe directs you to push the cooled, cooked custard base through a sieve before churning it in the ice cream freezer to make the ice cream silky smooth. Following that logic, I also pushed the pumpkin through a sieve. This ended up being a good idea. The ice cream was delicately smooth, and with a mere whisper of a half teaspoon of cinnamon and pinch of clove the ice cream had the perfect, unmistakable pumpkin flavor my Mom will love.

The temptation remains to fiddle with the recipe a bit. Please feel free to do so; my mind has already wandered to wondering if brown sugar would add a bit of complexity. What about a touch of coffee to make it Pumpkin Spice Latte in honor of my Barista’s seasonal treat?

And you can still have your KitKat bar…


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Happy Tweetoween

The Italian Team


Amaretti Semifreddo with roasted apricots

I’ve been making a lot of ice cream this summer. When I post a story in this venue about ice cream I tend to get a little paranoid about it. There are a couple of reasons: 1. There is no shortage of excellent ice cream available to buy, already made, at your local supermarket. 2. People still tend to think of ice cream as an ultimate indulgence, the 70’s drug binge of desserts. I half expect to receive an email calling me a horrid little man, and asking how I dare suggest such an indulgence—and besides, don’t I know that most people do not own an ice cream freezer? To which I would reply, “Little? Thank you!”

It seems no one can stop at just one or two scoops. I cannot fix people’s will power—or lack thereof—but I do have remedy for people’s lack of an ice cream freezer.

Whenever I have a question about food I look to the Italians. French food is magnifique, but even at its most casual has an arms-length formality. Italian food is a party even at its most formal. In the dessert realm I have always given the edge to the French, but as I get older I gain more and more respect for the Italian way with dolces—especially if I can introduce chocolate into the equation.

This is, admittedly, chalked up mainly to perception on my part. In my mind’s eye Rome is always sun-splashed and hot, but it’s always sweater and beret weather in Paris. Hmmm: where is my beret?

So, taking my ignorant cultural bias with a grain of salt, I think if I were to ask an Italian what to make if I wanted a frozen dessert but didn’t have an ice cream freezer, the answer would be: semifreddo.

Semifreddo translates as “half-frozen” which is exactly what it is. If, like me, you are a fan of letting your ice cream sit for a while until it hits the “gooshy” stage, then semifreddo is your man—uh—dessert. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hit the half frozen stage through you setting timers or reading thermometers. The ingredients do all the work for you.

The bad news: you will need an electric appliance—a hand-held mixer being the preferred mode of beatery here—although the heartier among us can (and do) make do with a whisk. This appliance is needed to whip some heavy cream and then whip a couple of eggs. I’m too lazy to do this the old fashioned way. The eggs are whipped until they are pale yellow, thick, and creamy. The cream is whipped to stiff peak stage. The two items are lightly folded together, plopped into a mold (in this case a loaf pan), then stashed in the freezer where the foamed eggs lighten the whipped cream and keep it from freezing solid.

There’s beauty in this concoction, and it is a beauty that is a reflection of your own taste, for the basic recipe becomes a blank slate upon which you can heap the bounty of your own imagination.

As this was my first go at semifreddo, I may have played it a bit safe, using a couple of obvious choices. I loosely crumbled about a half a package of little amaretti cookies and used those as a middle layer. During their stay in the freezer they were moistened slightly by their surroundings, but retained enough of their crunch to make them a prize. I oven-roasted a few fresh apricots and served those as a lumpy sauce, the oven magnifying their pungency, a nice counterpart to the vanilla buttery-ness of the semifreddo. Does this still count as “fruit for dessert”?

My next attempt may be a bit more fanciful. If I have the time I’ll make a simple praline from sugar and pistachios and crumble that as a middle layer. The salty pistachios and the sugar will lend a crunchy spikiness to the mellow frozen fluff. I think this may go well with a thimble of Vin Santo. Drink it? Pour it over the semifreddo?

You choose.


Click here for the Semifreddo recipe.


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“Tweeting far niente”

Frozen Assets

Peppermint Stick Ice Cream

Martian landscape...or frozen delight?

You’ll be relieved to hear that my winter hat, gloves, and a couple of scarves are still sitting out in a handy place.

Yes, I keep reminding myself that winter—or what passed for winter this year—is over. It is shorts and flip-flop season now. Part of the reluctance of putting my woolen saviors away is that I want to launder or dry clean them first. Part of my reluctance is rooted in disbelief that the calendar today says, “June.” Really? Wait. Where did the first five months go? I can find my hat and gloves, but March sped by so fast that my hat and gloves seem to be the only evidence that March actually happened.

I face the beginning of every summer with the same grim resolve: “I will sweat now. Perspiration will be my constant companion.”

Oh my. That is grim. I need some ice cream. That’ll cheer me up.

In spite of what sounds like a dread of warm weather, one tiny corner of my brain has been waiting impatiently for summer. That’s because that corner of my brain has been focused intently on a tightly wrapped bowl of crushed candy canes that I stashed in my freezer last December. They have been waiting there—a frozen asset—since they were used as decoration on a batch of Christmas cookies. A friend had requested a repeat performance of cookies dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with the crushed candy canes.

Or course during November and December candy canes are as much a part of the holiday season landscape as Señor Claus. To decorate the cookies I bought a package of candy canes and blitzed them in the food processor. The hardest part was getting the cellophane off of each individual cane (Noted to self at the time: don’t buy individually wrapped candy canes.)

One box of candy canes makes quite a bit more crushed candy than you could imagine, leaving quite a bit left over after I finished the cookies. The fleeting thought of discarding the rest was quickly overtaken by the fleeting inspiration to make Peppermint Stick Ice Cream “next summer”. At the time “next summer” seemed like a ship on a very distant horizon, yet here it is urgently ringing my doorbell.

The good news is that if candy canes abound during December, on June 1st my freezer seems to have an exclusive distribution deal. Suddenly the bowl of crushed candy which has been in the way all these months seems like buried treasure.

Even better, I can pat myself on the back: I’ll be telling people that I knew the Facebook stock would tank, so instead  I invested in peppermint futures and they have paid off handsomely. Buy and hold? Indeed.

There is purity to my childhood memories of Peppermint Stick ice cream that is hard to match. I am assuming my memories are of Howard Johnson’s version with its little premeditated pops of peppermint candy. I was tickled to see Mad Men pay tribute to HoJo’s this season, including a poster spied over Jon Hamm’s shoulder advertising Wednesday Fish Fry, a frequent landing pad for us when the summer heat made our kitchen unbearable. The Mad Men script highlighted HoJo’s orange sherbet, an item that wasn’t on my childhood radar. But they got the pointy shape of the scoop just right.

When I was a kid I must have literally stuck my eye into the ice cream because my memories are not of a cone, a scoop, or a dish, but of a frozen, creamy, Martian-pink landscape dotted with tiny candies. It would, on occasion, rain—hail—chocolate jimmies. Yes, this POV memory is a bit disturbing, but doesn’t everyone have a food memory like this? No? Uhhh, you mean this isn’t normal?

Well, it is this sort of trippy, psychedelic sense memory that makes me think in December of making ice cream in June, and I felt a huge responsibility to my memories to get it right, to make perfect Peppermint Stick ice cream. This is not brain surgery, although after re-reading my memory above it occurs to me that a brain surgeon would likely have a field day examining mine.

Clearly this was not the time for short cuts or easy recipes; I wanted to do this right. I had never taken the time to make an honest to goodness cooked ice cream base, so this was my maiden voyage. If you can plan your ice cream making a day or two in advance this is clearly the way to go.

Cooking custard sounds like a lot of trouble, but the truth is that if you can heat a can of soup, you can make Crème Anglaise, a/k/a ice cream base. The only real tricks (I think) are patience and a candy thermometer.

Well, think about it: the recipe uses four egg yolks…anytime you throw egg yolks over some heat you do run the risk of scrambled eggs. So, the patience is because you should use a lower heat than you may be used to and will have to stand and stir for several minutes. The candy thermometer will ensure that you do not cook the custard over 180 degrees which will scramble the eggs. Other than that it’s pretty simple. For best results you’ll need to cook the custard the day before you want to make the ice cream so that it can be chilled thoroughly before freezing.

The crushed candy canes (you can substitute the little round starlight peppermint candies) don’t get added to the ice cream until the final minute or two in the ice cream machine. If you have crushed them into a powdery crumble enough of the candy will dissolve into the ice cream tinting it a blushing pink that reminds me of my grandmother’s cheeks after she applied an item she quaintly called “rouge”.

I fought the further temptation—this time—to add a ribbon of melted chocolate as the ice cream machine whirled round and round. The Italians use this technique to add chocolate to Stracciatella gelato. When the melted chocolate hits the frozen cream it hardens and then crackles into the ice cream.

The combination of chocolate and peppermint will surely be visited before the summer ends.


Click here for my Peppermint Stick Ice Cream recipe


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“Frozen Tweetberry, please”

Mr. Wizard?

Biscoff & Coffee Ice Cream

Biscoff & Coffee Ice Cream

Lately every time I share a meal with my brother he makes me roll my eyes. He is intrigued by the recently released Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet. Me? Not so much.

If you don’t know who Nathan Myhrvold is, you may find his biography daunting. I sure do. Here’s the “head of a pin” version: started college at 14, PhD in theoretical and mathematical physics by age 23, formerly Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft, oh, and by the way, a master French chef who has finished first and second in the world championship of barbecue.

Ummmm. I can bake cookies and tie my shoes—although not at the same time. Oh, and I have to double-tie my shoes, because they tend to come untied if I don’t. My lack of intrigue with Myhrvold’s book is, I think, a classic case of projecting my own self-perceived short comings onto it. That and it is 2438 pages with a list price of $625—although savvy shoppers can snag it on Amazon for $477.93. You’ll have to wait though, as it is sold out.

The book itself deals heavily with the science of cooking. I never think of myself as someone who is interested in the science of cooking. Yet, as I think back on some of the things I‘ve written in this space I realize that my self-image seems to have been heavily self-censored. Anyone have a copy of that magazine quiz, “Are you a Geek”? I think it was in Popular Science. I need to be re-tested.

In the meantime your low-rent Mr. Wizard has brought you another food science lesson. Happily it ends with a dish of ice cream.

One thing I know about myself: you do not want to go grocery shopping with me. I am not a “quick run into the market to pick up a couple of things” kind of guy. The guy with the cart who is cruising up and down every aisle with extended stops in the imported food aisle? Smile and wave as you pass me.

Anyway, on one of those extended cruises I came across Junket rennet tablets.  I think they caught my eye because I remembered my Mom feeding me Junket rennet custard as a kid. I’ve never been much of a milk drinker, and it was a way to get milk into me. (I’ve never even liked milk on my breakfast cereal.)

Rennet is an enzyme that is harvested from the stomach lining of cows, and it coagulates milk. Many cheese makers use rennet to separate milk into curds and whey. The curds are then treated in many different ways to make all the different kinds of cheese we love. The whey is used for many products from protein powder supplements to animal feed.

Truth is, these tablets have been sitting on my shelf for months. I bought them without really thinking of how I would use them. Reading through the attached pamphlet though, my eye was immediately drawn to a recipe for ice cream. Who knew? Rennet ice cream! Yes, I know: you’re just as amazed as me!

It makes sense. Ice cream needs an ingredient that will emulsify the mixture in order to prevent ice crystals from forming as it freezes. Many cooks use eggs. Commercial ice cream often has other ingredients to do this, including gelatin. But the coagulation caused by the rennet can be done without heat. No cooking means less time needed to chill the mixture, which means the ice cream will be in your dish that much faster.

Low-rent Mr. Wizard would like to remind you of one of his guiding principles: always read and re-read a new recipe before using it. I did not, so as they say on Twitter, #FAIL. This is science, so if the recipe says Whole Milk, do not use 2% Milk.

I think my other mistake was being a bit too diligent in following the cooking instructions. The recipe says to warm the milk and cream to lukewarm at 110˚F. I very carefully did so, but I think my thermometer may have been misplaced in the sauce pan. I’m guessing I may have overheated the milk because not only did the rennet not coagulate the milk and cream, the resulting mixture would not freeze, even when I stuck it in the regular freezer for a few hours.

Starting from scratch, I deduced that the reason the mixture is warmed is to dissolve the sugar in the milk and cream. What if I skipped the heating stage altogether?

On my second attempt, I decided to dissolve the sugar mechanically. I combined everything except the cream in the blender. After the sugar dissolved, the cream was added and mixed very briefly to avoid whipping it. This attempt was perfect and creamy. It is not as silky as custard-based ice cream. The flip side to that is that is not too rich or heavy either.

In the meantime, on another of those meandering trips up and down the grocery aisle I found Biscoff cookies. I was first introduced to these toasty, brown sugary, Belgian cookies when I was served one for breakfast on an airplane trip. (Yes. One cookie the size of two fingers. For breakfast. Well done, airlines! I remember thinking, “I hope they didn’t go to too much trouble.”) Printed on the side of the cookie wrapper are the words, “Europe’s Favorite Cookie With Coffee.” What could be better than coffee ice cream with Biscoff cookies crumbled in?

Uh oh. I think that was one of the questions on the “Are you a Geek?” test.


Click here for my recipe for “Biscoff & Coffee Ice Cream


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Go ahead: tweet this posting. It is your duty…

The Chill Diaries

Peach Crisp Ice Cream Sandwiches

Peach Crisp Ice Cream Sandwiches

You’ve probably seen this in old movies: someone climbs a ladder to a high shelf in a library. Pulling a book from the shelf, they blow off the dust, creating a cloud that momentarily obscures the screen.

I thought of that image the other day when I pulled the bowl of my ice cream maker from the back of my freezer. It has been there, untouched, ignored, since last summer. Instead of blowing dust off, I had to knock chunks of frost and ice off. All that was missing was some long lost ancient hiker embalmed in the ice after taking a wrong turn at Shangri-La.

Why has my ice cream maker sat untouched since last summer? Is there some kind of law against making ice cream during the fall and winter? Only in my head, and it is somehow related to the reason I watch Jimmy Cagney in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” only on the Fourth of July: because that’s when you are supposed to watch it.

I ought to know better. Boston (my home town) has always been a die-hard ice cream town. The season or the weather means nothing to Boston’s ice cream appetite. Beantown is an inaccurate nickname; it should be Icecreamtown.

In last week’s blog I mentioned—merely in passing—ice cream sandwiches. Unfortunately the idea stuck in my head and could not be dislodged. Some early season peaches at the market also helped motivate me a bit. They were not quite ripe. In fact, they were as hard as an MLB-regulation baseball. Still, the romance of Fresh Peach Ice Cream for Memorial Day beckoned.

Here’s the plain truth: I think ice cream is much harder to make than anyone will admit. When I was a kid and someone would pull out one of the old hand-cranked ice cream makers, we were so grateful to have a tiny dish of vanilla ice cream placed in our hands still sore from cranking that we barely gave the consistency or flavor a second thought. Vanilla? Wheee!

How many kids over the years have been duped into that cruel manual labor by the promise of a dish of ice cream? Add more ice! Add more salt! Keep cranking! It was right up there with raking leaves.

The modern “freezer-bowl” ice cream makers are easier on the arm, that’s for sure. But be warned: while the spotlight may be off manual labor, it is burning brightly on ingredients, flavors, and technique. I have a bit to learn. Good ice cream doesn’t happen overnight. Wait a minute. Yes it does. That’s one of the things I learned.

The ice cream I was always served from the hand crank freezer was very basic: milk, cream and sugar: basically frozen whipped cream. Not a bad thing, but really good ice cream is made from cooked custard. Hot custard placed in an ice cream freezer becomes…cool custard, but not ice cream. This I learned the hard way.

I found a recipe in my beloved old copy of The New York Times Cookbook (circa 1961) for Fresh Peach Ice Cream. “Perfect!” I thought and got to work. The recipe gives instructions for cooking custard, followed by the one word instruction: “Cool.” After doing a bit of homework (and making ice cream that never froze) I discovered that the instruction should have read, “Chill.” Even better: “Chill for four hours.”

Ice cream experts can correct me if I am wrong, but this is because of the way ice cream freezes: gently, and with constant movement that prevents ice crystals from forming. If the mixture starts off too warm, the ice cream freezer can’t do its work. So I will now and forever think, “Chill” when making ice cream. As the peaches were slightly less than ripe I diced them, as opposed to crushing them as directed in the recipe.

Usually, the cookie portion of ice cream sandwiches is a basic chocolate wafer. But my mind kept drifting to Peach Crisp, hot from the oven, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. What was called for here was a cookie that would bring the sugary crunch of the crisp to the party. This is where I got a little inventive.

As a base I used an old oatmeal cookie recipe I made up a few years ago. My Mom reminded me that ginger and peaches go well together, so I added a bit of chopped crystallized ginger. The big adjustment I made here was to freeze the dough in the shape of a brick, and then slice and bake the dough in rectangles. A generous sprinkle of demerara sugar just before baking added crunch and sparkle.

Following this concept, I also froze the ice cream in a brick. That way I could cut it into pieces that fit the cookies. No scoops here, as assembling was as simple as, um, making a sandwich.These ice cream sandwiches are a bit rich, but what a luxurious and sweet way to celebrate summer. And I just need to remember to “Chill.”

Good advice for making ice cream, and surviving a hot summer.


Click here for my recipe for “Peach Crisp Ice Cream Sandwiches


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Love Is Messy (and so am I)

Frozen Chocolate Souffle

Messy? If you want...

I am terribly vain. My vanity is, however, at cross purposes with my manner of eating, which I self-consciously categorize as “voracious.” A friend has observed that when I eat, the rest of the world disappears. The problem with simultaneously being vain and Hoover-esque when one eats is that invariably one’s clothes suffer. I’m working on it.

It’s not that I’m a drooling mess; it’s not that you can look at my shirt and deduce what I had for lunch; no, it is far more subtle. The usual scenario plays out like this: I do my laundry. I iron a shirt. The shirt looks crisp and clean. I then don the shirt and look in the mirror only to spy a small oil stain (last Tuesday’s lemon vinaigrette perhaps?). My spotty history (as it were).

Yes, the obvious answer would be to either disrobe while I eat (frowned upon in public), or to wear a bib (frowned  upon. Period.) The latter reminds me of a middle aged couple I waited on in a hotel restaurant many-something years ago. Mrs. was clothed (amply) in a gold metallic fabric. When her entrée arrived she reached into her (ample) handbag and withdrew a matching gold metallic bib. That picture burned into my vulnerable mind strikes bibs and metallic fabrics off the list of options. Aside from my spotty shirts, I have also become self-conscious (as any truly vain person would be) that I must look like a woodchuck gnawing at a tree when I eat. Again, I’m working on it: my pinkies are up.

Chocolate and roses are the old standbys of Valentine’s Day. Chocolate is dangerous enough, but dip a strawberry or two in it and my white shirts will cower at the back of the closet.

Good news fellow slobs enthusiastic eaters, Valentine’s Day is an occasion when messy food is welcome; you’re consuming it with someone who knows all your flaws, and still loves you anyway. If you get a little chocolate on your face, someone is there to help you figure out how to clean it off (ahem, this is a family blog.)

Yet, it occurs to me that there are a great many folks on whom these gifts would be lost. Countless women in my life have professed over the years to preferring daisies over roses. Another friend says she loves chocolate but it gives her a headache.

This begs the question: if you’ve been told that someone prefers daisies, but the tradition of the day calls for roses, what do you do? I consulted with a friend and fellow blogger, Jenny Beaudry, founder of the global lifestyle brand Very much an arbiter of trends, tastes, and proper gift giving, Jenny assured me in a flutter of tweets that tradition has its place, but if the gift recipient has expressed a preference, then that preference trumps all. Phew, that’s a relief.

By the way, if you’re wondering where all this discussion of my vanity and being a messy eater came from, I can lay the blame on Valentine’s Day. My plan was to write about Warm Chocolate Soufflé. It is the perfect romantic dessert: gooey, warm, and chocolate. I am a huge fan of all soufflé and I think they have gotten a bad rap. The truth is that they are easy to make, dramatic, yadda yadda yadda.

Alas, I’ll have to save Warm Chocolate Soufflé and the yadda yadda yadda for another day. I have been reminded that on Valentine’s Day many people eat out. Therefore I thought it would be a fun (and better) idea to create a little something that can be waiting at home, no oven required.

That’s not to say that the idea of soufflé has been banished. I have simply turned the temperature down. Way down. Cross out the word “Warm” and scribble in the word “Frozen.” While it seems a touch counterintuitive to make something frozen in the middle of winter, in actuality the frozen part is more about preparation than about temperature. Give me a minute and this will make sense.

Frozen soufflé is usually served in the summer, and is usually flavored with lemon or berries—the better to refresh you with a light touch, my dear. The dessert isn’t really served frozen, it is best when allowed to sit for a few minutes so that some of the chill dissipates. This is a preference that sits especially well with me—I don’t like food at either extreme: too hot or too cold. This is especially true of chocolate. I’ve been known to let chocolate ice cream sit out to the point I call “pre-soup.” I think any chocolate just tastes better closer to room temperature. For frozen soufflé the freezer takes the place of the oven; it is the mode of cooking. You’ll let the soufflé sit for a while, and the result will be supple, rich, très chocolat, and potentially très messy.

Fruit-based frozen soufflé often employ a bit of gelatin to pull everything together. I’m not a fan; I think that gelatin can lend a rubbery texture. This is especially out of place with chocolate. Instead, this recipe is based on a sturdy Italian meringue in which the sugar is cooked to the soft ball stage. The foamy meringue gives the whole package its rich airiness.

Yes, a touch of work is required, but the work can be done several days in advance and the result stashed lovingly in the freezer. You can dine out on the big day smirking with the self satisfied knowledge that something good is waiting at home.

Double entendre anyone?


Click here for the recipe for Frozen Chocolate Soufflé.


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