Posts Tagged ‘Ice Cream’

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”

Ceremonial Duties

Home-made Sugar Cones

waiting for Ben and Jerry

So far my only real celebration of summer’s arrival has been to listen to Nat King Cole sing about those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. That always puts me in the mood for a good Clam Roll.

I absolutely love summer.

Okay, that’s a total lie. Let’s just say that I’ve gotten old enough to make my peace with summer. Nat King Cole, a few reliable old movies that I watch every summer, and the hypnotic hum of the air conditioner are what get me through. When those wear off a dab of ice cream does the trick. And just as they used to say about Brylcreem, “A little dab’ll do ya.”

A little dab of ice cream? Who stops there?

I know lots of folks who cannot get enough ice cream. I’m a more recreational user. But in the hot weather there’s something mighty appealing about the ceremony that surrounds ice cream.

When I was a kid my mother used to take me to Jules Salon for Men to have my hair cut. Jules, an expat Frenchman, ran a very modern (at the time) establishment for executives, but it was still very much a barbershop. So, there was little Mikey sitting on the bench, legs crossed, waiting, reading Paris-Match. I couldn’t understand a word in the magazine, but I like to think I learned a thing or two about Peugeot, Catherine Deneuve, and Georges Pompidou anyway.

As I write this I keep thinking about how barbershops have disappeared, but then the sting of truth washes over me: it’s not barbershops that have disappeared, it’s my hair, and therefore my need for barbershops.


After my haircut a trip of mere steps would find us in the chilled quiet of Bailey’s, an outpost of the beloved but sadly departed Boston confectionary. I find it hard to believe that places like this have seemingly evaporated. They were temples devoted to the worship of chill. Everything fed this nurturing cool, from the thick marble tables, to the twisted metal seat backs, and the steel, ruffle-rimmed metal ice cream dishes. Not a paper cup in sight.

On a hot summer day, our post-haircut treat was a drippy, hot fudge sundae with Mocha Lace ice cream, marshmallow sauce (instead of whipped cream), and salted walnuts on top. This was eaten with a loooooong metal spoon. We would chase that with tiny glasses of icy cold water that dripped from an enormous marble lavabo before trotting by the candy counter for a glimpse of the dusty, jewel-toned Turkish Delight.

Yes, each sundae likely wiped out that year’s harvest of sugar cane from a small Caribbean island. But this wasn’t an everyday indulgence, merely an occasional treat. My behavior—good or bad—was irrelevant, for nothing would keep my Mother from her appointed date with Mocha Lace. I suspect her choice of Jules Salon for Men had as much to do with its proximity to Bailey’s as it did with Jules’ talent with my little scalp.

The Ice Cream ceremony takes many forms. It could be the frightening jingle of the Mister Softee truck, or the technique you’ve honed to dampen the slam of the freezer door after you’ve snuck yet another spoonful of Phish Food…or Chubby Hubby…or both.

The common sugar cone is part of my ceremony. I love them just as much as the ice cream; yet, I prefer my ice cream in a dish, with the sugar cone perched on top like a pointy hat. With each spoonful of ice cream I get a bit of crunch from the cone, yet I don’t have to worry about ice cream melting out of the bottom and rolling down my wrist. Peculiar? Sue me.

Until recently I had never tried baking my own ice cream cones. The hardest thing about this was finding the right utensil. I absolutely refused to spend the forty or fifty dollars on yet another electric appliance. This had less to do with spending money and more to do with lack of kitchen storage. I knew I needed a pizzelle iron. Who knew unless you’re willing to dig deep, that the pizzelle world has gone all electric? (Yes, I was horrified by this too, so rest easy.)

Finally I consulted Fante’s, the great Philadelphia-based kitchen supply store. After my search for an old fashioned stove top pizzelle iron had run aground in Manhattan, they offered a happily modest selection, along with great advice, recipes, and a bit of history thrown in.

(Did you know that pizzelle irons used to be given as wedding gifts etched with the new bride’s initials and the wedding date? Totally charming. Maybe I’ll have mine etched with an outline of Mikey the Pig, this site’s mascot currently oinking at the top of this page. Anyone know a trustworthy pizzelle etcher?)

I’ll admit that I did have some trepidation before my inaugural run with my old-school iron. Would the cookies stick? Would they burn? I figured who cares? The iron isn’t electric so if the worst happened I could just soak it in the sink and scrub it with some steel wool. Hey, the thing only cost about sixteen dollars. I was willing to take a chance.

I worried for nothing. After following Fante’s instructions to season the iron, each ice cream cone slid out of the iron without a fight before being rolled and left to harden (which happens fast.)

For my bonus round I substituted gluten-free flour for the all-purpose kind called for in the recipe. There was really very little difference; if anything the gluten-free cones had a slightly more fragile crumble point. (If you try the gluten free kind make sure your baking powder is also gluten free.)

And yes, that’s the scoop on making ice cream cones.


Here’s my sugar cone adaptation of Fante’s Pizzelle recipe.


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How ‘bout some jimmies on that Tweet?

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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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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Is it the good turtle soup? (Or merely the mock?)

Cherry Cordial Frozen Yogurt

Of course the lyric of the Cole Porter song quoted here was all about discerning true love from mere passing fancy. (For the uninitiated, Cole Porter wrote many hit songs along with film and Broadway scores. Unfortunately he passed on before getting the opportunity to write for Beyoncé.)

However, I, true to form and blog content, am writing about food, in this case, frozen confections. Last week I wrote about desserts made with fresh cherries, and mentioned in passing what a shame it was that I didn’t have an ice cream freezer handy. Happily that has now been remedied and I am ready to freeze all manner of dairy products.

This isn’t my first time at the freezer, folks. I go back to the days of bagged ice, rock salt, and hand cranks. Let me tell you: hand cranked ice cream is manual labor, a clever trade off where you burn calories and then eat them back while hopefully avoiding the dreaded “ice cream headache.” Happily I have joined the twenty-first century: my Kitchen Aid now does all the work.

I should back up here for a moment and explain that I was all ready to write about something completely different this week. But the combination of fresh cherries waiting in my refrigerator, a rueful note from a friend about a late-nineties Cherry Garcia addiction, and the stinky-hot weather got me in the mood for making ice cream. Yet, something nagged at me, and I believe it was called vanity. I was afraid that with an ice cream freezer in hand I would shortly become a candidate for “The Biggest Loser.”

Thus my new mission: lowering the guilt quotient of frozen desserts (you can tell I mean business here because I used “thus” to start this sentence.) Clearly I have my work cut out for me; Ben, Jerry, and many others have been working on this mission for a very long time.

The science of ice cream is not a straightforward one. Indeed, Penn State has a world renowned course dedicated to ice cream science, nicknamed “Cow to Cone”; this is no mere “gut” course (although if you stop by Penn State’s Berkey Creamery enough you’ll have one. (A gut, I mean. Pardon the pun.))

Big companies have long been studying ways to compensate for the thin flavor and underwhelming mouth feel of low fat ice cream. What makes me think I could do any better? I don’t. I’m not out to remake the world of ice cream, I’m just looking to have something cool and delicious waiting in the freezer after a hot, stinky day. If I can manage to keep it healthy too then I’ll consider it icing on the cake (again, you’ll please pardon the pun.)

So, with lowered expectations well in hand I got work. I happen to be a big fan of Greek Yogurt. Even the low fat versions tend to be thick, creamy, and very satisfying. What if I combined the cherries and chocolate from last week’s blog with Greek Yogurt and took them for a spin in my new ice cream freezer? Sounds promising.

I combined a 37.5 ounce container of plain 2% Fage Greek Yogurt with two teaspoons of vanilla and five packets of Stevia-based sweetener, a supposedly healthy, herb-based non-sugar sweetener. I’m not big on artificial sweeteners, but I thought this would be a good occasion to take this one for a test drive.

Following the Kitchen Aid’s directions, I let that mixture spin around in the freezer for fifteen minutes before adding a cup and a half of sliced, pitted cherries, and a half cup of milk chocolate that I had cut into chocolate chip-sized chunks. (Slicing and pitting the cherries was the most labor intense part of the project, but even that was easier than cranking an ice-locked freezer. I pitted and sliced the cherries while sitting and watching TV. No biggie.)

The result just out of the ice cream freezer was still very soft, but very tangy, and with a pronounced cherry flavor – no doubt the sliced cherries gave up some of their juice as they were knocked around by the ice cream freezer’s dasher. Pinkberry came to mind, but better due the chewy cherries and chocolate that popped up with each bite.

After finishing the frozen yogurt with an extended stay in the freezer I dug in with crazed anticipation. Or I should say I tried to dig in: the frozen yogurt was frozen solid, and required well over a half hour before being ready to scoop and serve. Once scoop-able I thought it tasted even better, the intense cold muting some of the overly bright notes of the yogurt, the stevia, and the cherries.

But it was the texture that was a bit of a letdown, too icy in spots, and too “melty” in other spots, with no compromise in sight. Clearly science caught up with me and won. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the stuff was still delicious, cool, refreshing, and all about the fresh cherries. So, yes, it is definitely the mock turtle soup, but still yummy. (I’m not publishing a formal recipe. For now let’s consider this a work in progress.)

My next attempt will find me substituting a bit of honey for the stevia. The natural glycerin in the honey may help the freezing qualities of the yogurt. We’ll see. I’ll happily trade a few carbs for a better consistency. I’ll report the results to you in this venue, but for now I’ll get to work on that second batch.

No, don’t worry about me. It’s okay: I’ll make the sacrifice.


Read about my talented friend Fabiana Lee and her hand-crafted empanadas in The New York Times.


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