Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Scoop: All the news that's fit to lick

Something exciting is happening in Hawthorne, New Jersey: the darling wonders known as Rice Creams.  These pretty babies combine ice cream with a little snap, crackle, and pop.  I kid you not - instead of a cookie, it's a Rice Krispy treat.  Thrilling!  

From their signature blue and white gingham carts, they have been serving outdoor events for years.   Now, if you live in New York or New Jersey, Rice Creams are coming to a supermarket freezer section near you.  Who's ready for some crunch 'n' cream?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Liquid, Gas, and Solid

"The truth is, ice cream is really hard to screw up."

And so began the in-store demonstration by Ben Van Leeuwen, co-founder of Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream.  If you are not familiar with their product I urge you to pick up a pint at Whole Foods today.  Van Leeuwen's products are everything you want an ice cream to be: startlingly simple with the kind of taste that transports your soul to a happier place.  Was that description rather dramatic?  Yeah, sure.  But am I joking?  Nuh-uh.  

Those of us in NYC are lucky enough to be able to get scoops at the various Van Leeuwen's trucks parked around the city.  This ain't no Mr. Softee.  And thank goodness for that.  

Along with Ben's brother and wife, the trio Van Leeuwen thought it would be a good thing if a truck served organic ice cream that used local ingredients.  After realizing there was nothing out there that met that criteria, they started producing the treats themselves.  That was a year ago.  Now the egg custard colored trucks can be found all around town including Soho and Union Square.

The reason behind food philosophies is often as simple as it is successful.  When I was barely out of my teens, I asked Patricia Curtain, long time cook at and illustrator of several Chez Panisse cookbooks, why you have to use unsalted butter when making a pie crust if you just going to add salt to the dough later.  "Because it tastes better," was her reply.

You really can't argue with that.

Ben Van Leeuwen has this same straight forward, "no duh," approach to his craft.  He stressed that it is imperative to use the best ingredients because with ice cream because you really aren't doing much to alter what you started with.  BVL (he didn't say I could call him that but it just feels right), is passionate about doing what is right for the sake of good. 

On the night of this class at The Brooklyn Kitchen, he happily shared with us his opinions about the best chocolate (Michel Cluizel), the best pistachios (from Bronte, Sicily) in addition to the different methods of drying vanilla, the ideal ratios of fruit to butter fat, and the dreadful, common employ of artificial stabilizers in mainstream ice cream production.  

Some of Ben's more memorable quotes:
  • In regards to letting the eggs in one's custard cook - "It's awful.  It's just horrible.  Don't let it happen."
  • When asked about making coffee ice cream - "Use really good freeze dried coffee.  Sorry.  It's pretty unromantic."
  • "Nut oils can do weird things."
  • About sourcing new ingredients - "I didn't find anything, anything awesome."
I'm pretty sure a new-thought religion could be based on that last one - if it's not awesome, why bother?

So, what did I learn?
  • Both chocolate and vanilla are originally from Mexico.
  • I should be using a double boiler to make custard (egg are less likely to cook/clot)
  • Cool your custard in an ice bath
  • I should be experimenting with duck eggs
  • Breyer's adds vanilla wood pulp to their ice cream to give it an handmade look
  • Natural vanilla has 350 flavor components (wow!)
  • Ice cream is liquid, gas, and solid - water is the solid, cream is the liquid (lower freezing point than water), and the gas is the air infused through the custard by way of churning.  
Someone asked BVL what was the weirdest flavor he'd ever made and the answer was Szechwan pepper (infuse custard with 1 tablespoon of the peppercorns) - I will definitely be trying this in the next few weeks.  I told him I had bought kaffir lime leaves and thought maybe a sherbet or a sorbet?  Maybe a syrup?  "Definitely a sorbet.  And those leaves aren't like bay leaves.  You could put some in there."  Um, okay, cool!

During the evening's demonstration, Ben made two flavors of ice cream: chocolate and earl grey tea.  And, this is really exciting, we got to taste a flavor he currently is experimenting with - green tea.  We were sent home with a half pint of our choice to freeze up at home.  I took the earl grey and let me tell you, this stuff reigns supreme.  Thanks, Ben!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Inspirations: The M Train

Oh, my blessed M train 
slowly moving masses
Inspires this iced cream 
made of sticky brown molasses

Mixt with honey vanilla 
to make it just like
the M train logo
a bit of brown, a bit of white

My train slithers through Brooklyn
and it sleeps in Queens
 Barely dips a toe into Manhattan
'Cause it's an outer borough thing

M train, my M train
so misunderstood
You're now facing service cuts
And that is no good.

Molasses Ice Cream
  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 c mild molasses
  • 2 c half-and-half

Blend cream cheese, brown sugar, and molasses in a food processor or blender until smooth. With motor running, add half-and-half, blending until combined.

Freeze in an ice cream maker per manufacturer's instructions.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Inspired by Chinatown

Let's go to Chinatown. You know you want to. I'd like to take you to two places - one I've been shopping at for years while the other one I visited for the first time last week. Such as Chinatown, NYC. The more you know, the more you don't know.

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, allow me to introduce you to my new friend, Bangkok Center Grocery. This place has so many wonderful things to stick in my machine. My goodness, that sounds a whole lot dirtier than I intended...and I'm not even sure why! Anyway, I'd never seen a Thai store in NYC though I didn't for one second doubt one existed. I purchased a pound of Thai tea - yes, the orange, powdery loose tea used to make the ice tea concoction served in Thai restaurants. I also got kaffir lime leaves and a can of lychees but we'll have to use those at a later date because I got distracted at New Kam Man.

I am positively addicted to buying small serving dishes in Chinatown which is why I've been shopping at here for so long. They have an amazing selection of sweet little dishes from China and Japan. It's been a healthy habit. So far.

New Kam Man also has groceries so I picked up a bag of black sesame seeds along with a few new dishes and goodness gracious - you know this is going, don't you? It's going straight down the path of utter delectably and there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop it - nothing!

Thai Tea Ice Cream

1 1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c Thai tea
3 egg yolks1c sugar
1 1/2 c heavy cream (or half and half for ice milk)

Heat milk to nearly boiling. Steep tea in hot milk for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and strain.

Add cream to tea infused milk and return to heat. Stir mixture until hot but not boiling.

Combine eggs and sugar in a bowl. Slowly add a few tablespoons of the hot milk mixture into the yolks. Mix well.

Add egg mixture to the pot with the tea mixture, stir constantly over low heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain, if necessary, and cool in the refrigerator until well chilled.

Pour into an maker and process according to the manufacturer's directions.

Black Sesame Ice Cream

3 tablespoons black sesame seeds, roasted and crushed (with a mini-food processor or blender)

2 heavy cream

2 c milk

1/2 c sugar

4 egg yolks

Add sesame seeds, heavy cream, milk, and 1/4 cup of sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat on a stove, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat. Beat together the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar with the egg yolks in a medium bowl.

Very slowly pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking the eggs the entire time, being careful not to cook the eggs

Return the contents back to the saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly for 5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened to a custard. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature.

Process in an ice cream machine. Chill overnight in the freezer before serving.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Philadelphian Ice Stream of Consciousness part 1

I went to Philadelphia on a pretty spring day.  There were so many things to do and see!

Like this gorgeous deco architecture,

 a mosaic of the neighborhood where Rocky Balboa took his fist pumping run,

and Basset's Ice Cream,  the oldest ice cream company in the US!  

Basset's was started by LD Bassett, a Quaker school teacher.

I saw another Quaker in Philadelphia -  the Quaker Oats man, fading on the side of a wall.

Philadelphian Ice Stream of Consciousness part 2

Bassett's is located in the Reading Terminal Market, a jewel of a marketplace with 80 merchants serving everything from crepes to cheesesteaks.  

Though I found the specialty cones laced with the nuts and sprinkles intriguing, for my first trip to Bassett's I kept it simple - a single scoop of cinnamon ice cream on a cake cone. 

It was very rich and smooth, not too sticky, with a subtle, even dusting of cinnamon throughout.  

That's me enjoying said cone.  The picture was taken by a harmless yet undeniably creepy older gentleman who said, "I don't get permission to take pictures of pretty ladies often."  This, of course, led me to believe he takes pictures without permission all the time.

Philadelphian Ice Stream of Consciousness part 3

On the way back to Brooklyn and I thought of all I'd seen.  The Quaker Oats man and the creepy old man.  The bronze statue of Rocky Balboa in front of the museum and all the tourists who pose beside it, two fists high. The jazz musicians playing on Poplar St.   The architecture.  The murals.  The mosaics. The Alexander Calder tapestries at the Free Library.  Philly.  Ice cream.  Rocky.  Quaker Oats. (Yes, this is how my brain works.)  Poplar.  Band.  Bronze.  The nouns flew like this for awhile until I landed on some magic dessert math that has not a damn thing to do with calories.



Equals "Rocky's Road"
Yes, I could've just made Rocky Road ice cream but it'll be a cold day in hell when I eat a marshmallow.  So instead, I made this up.  

Cream Cheese Ice Cream
8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese
1 c milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 c sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 c heavy cream (or half and half for a lower fat version)

Blend the first five ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl then stir in cream or half and half.  Prepare in ice cream maker as per manufacturer's instructions.  Store in an airtight container and freeze for at least two hours.

Very important note: Let ice cream soften for five minutes before serving.

Chocolate Sauce
2/3 c half and half
2 tbs butter
1 c milk chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat half and half and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until butter melts.  Remove from heat and add chocolate.  Let mixture stand for one minute then whisk until the chocolate melts.  Mix in vanilla.  Cool sauce to room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Rocky's Road
Place a handful of granola in a plastic bag and roll with a rolling pin or glass until granola is tiny. 

Drizzle chocolate sauce over cream cheese ice cream and sprinkle with granola!

Philadelphian Ice Stream of Consciousness part 4

Alexander Calder banner in Philadelphia

Rocky's Road back home in Brooklyn

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sour Cream and Strawberry Ice Pops

Is it a coincidence that today's project...

...looks an awful lot like my skirt? 

Hmm, c'est un grand mystere.

Using some of the techniques described in my new bible, Pops by Krystina Castella, I used plastic cups, wooden sticks, and suspended slices of fruit in them.  The recipe, however, came from a different source. 

Truth be told, it was an ice cream recipe that didn't quite work out.  

I put it in the machine and after 30 minutes it was still strawberry soup.   I followed the recipe exactly and I'm not trying to blame anybody by naming names...okay, it's a famous vegetarian restaurant in upstate New York that rhymes with Goosewood.  That's all I'm going to say.  Don't twist my arm!  

Since there are no failures on my blog, let's see what I learned:

Improvise and you will find that the world of the frozen dessert is so very forgiving!

Strawberry and Sour Cream Pops

1 pint fresh strawberries
3/4 c sugar
1 c sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Slices of fresh strawberries (optional)

Puree strawberries and sugar in a blender.  Refrigerate one hour.  Combine with sour cream and vanilla.  Pour into moulds.  Add slices of fresh strawberry. 

If you using store bought moulds pop them in the freezer!  If you are using the cup and stick method, you will need to let the pops partially freeze - about 30 minutes - before sticking the sticks in so they will stay straight.

If you can get this one to work in machine, I'll give you a dollar.  

Yeah, you're right.  I probably won't.

Anyway, this pop is both sweet and tart, a lovely combinations.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Theories: The Second Grade

For my friend Cris' birthday, I made a lovely dessert that comes from the sap of a particular tree.  Was it good?  No, it was, good, eh?  That's right, I channeled my inner Canadian and made Maple Ice Cream!  It was a really positive experience but I have to say, I had a helluva time getting the right maple syrup.  I think the problem has to do with the American psyche.  

Everything in the U.S. has to be THE BEST.  If it's not, then it's obviously THE WORST.  There are only two choices.  Well, that's my crackpot theory and I'm sticking to it.  So what on earth does this have to do with ice cream, you say? 

Real maple syrup comes in grades - grade A is lighter and smooth while and grade B is darker and more complex.  For cooking, you want the grade B because it packs a more of a punch when mixed with other ingredients.  However, it proved to be difficult to find.  I am sure because "grade B" sounds like "second best" in the minds of our fellow citizens.  Kind of reminds me when figure skater Michelle Kwan burst into hot tears of frustration when she was awarded the silver medal in the 1998 Winter Olympics.  And we wonder why people don't like us abroad!

This same phenomenon happens with extra virgin olive oil.  Is it better than regular olive oil?  No.  Each has different uses.  Plain old olive oil is ideal for cooking while extra virgin is for salads and drizzling on cooked veggies right before serving.  However, since extra virgin sounds better, well, it's pretty much all you can find in a market.  And you see people frying things in it.  Oh, the humanity!

So, after checking several local markets including, I finally got poor, misunderstood grade B in Nova Scotia, Canada where they call it "maple syrup #2."  Number 2.  Grade B.  Always a bridesmaid just because you're so complex.  I feel your pain, sister.

Anyway, it was delicious!

Maple Ice Cream

3/4 c grade B maple syrup
1 c whole milk
2 c heavy cream (or half and half for ice milk)
pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks

In a medium saucepan over moderately high heat, boil the maple syrup until reduced slightly, about 5 minutes.  Lower the heat and stir in milk, cream, and salt.  Cook, but do not boil.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks until lightened, about two minutes.  Slowly add a few tablespoons of the hot milk mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly.  Add yolks to the rest of the milk, again, whisking constantly.

Cook the mixture over medium-low heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Cook, but do not boil.

Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl and chill at least four hours.  

Freeze in an ice cream maker per manufacturer's instructions.

The mounties rescue me from the grade b dilemma.  Thanks, good neighbors!

Step one: boil the grade b syrup until your camera goes all steamy and romantic.

As they say in Nova Scotia, "That's right some good, dear."