Monday, October 24, 2011

A Not-So-Random Act of Tremendous Generosity

I was out with some friends the other night and the subject of my homemade ice cream project came up. More specifically, that the endeavor met a premature demise thanks to yet another busted ice cream maker. I'd pretty much settled on throwing in the towel on the ice cream project when one of my friends objected that he'd never even gotten to sample anything I'd made. And then, out of nowhere, he offered to buy me a new one. In exchange, for the first batch I had to make his flavor of choice. I was a little reluctant - I never accept expensive gifts very well - but he really seemed to want to buy it for me, so I let him. It arrived late last week, complete with a spare bowl so that I can make consecutive batches of ice cream without having to wash and refreeze the bowl.


To be honest, this gift came at a great time. Work had me pretty bummed out last week, and I was in need of a pick-me-up. I got to work on my friend's requested flavor, peanut butter ice cream, right away. Surprisingly, there's no shortage of recipes for peanut butter-flavored ice cream on the internet. They were all no cook (eggless) recipes, so the base isn't a true custard, but the flavor is great, so who cares? Below is the recipe I used, slightly adapted.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream (adapted from Annie's Eats)
Yield: approx. 1 quart

3/4 c. creamy peanut butter (I used Simply Jif, which has less sugar than other varieties)
3/4 c. plus 2 T. sugar
2 2/3 c. half-and-half
Pinch of coarse salt (I used kosher)
Dash of vanilla extract (I used about 1/2 t.)

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender* and puree until completely smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. When the mixture is chilled through, remove it from the refrigerator and stir with a whisk to recombine all the ingredients (mine separated slightly while still in the fridge). Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, then transfer to a container and continue to freeze to desired firmness.

*The original recipe called for either a blender or a food processor. I don't have a blender, so I went with my trusty 7-cup food processor. This was a mistake. The ingredients fill the food processor bowl more than halfway, and when you blend it and turn everything to liquid, it leaks out through the hole in the center of the bowl and all over the counter, down the cabinets, onto the floor, etc. So, um, yeah... stick with a blender. Trust me.

Let the ice cream sit in the freezer overnight to really develop the flavor, and you get this:


Yum.

Since it's not a true custard, it's not quite as smooth as other ice creams. One option would be to swap out the half-and-half and substitute 2 parts cream to 1 part whole milk - this might make for a smoother base. But the taste is spot on. It reminds me of a peanut butter mousse - light, creamy and not overpoweringly peanut buttery. If you're a fan of peanut butter - and if you're not, what's wrong with you? - then this is definitely a recipe you need to try. I'll be making it again (perhaps for a good friend's upcoming birthday?), but I'll be borrowing a blender when I do.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

And So Ends Project Ass-pansion 2011

Ice cream season is officially over for me. I attempted one last flavor, Apple Pie Ice Cream, which came out so mediocre I forgot to even photograph it. But it wasn't that mini-failure that ended it for me; it was the death of another ice cream maker.

After its final use I washed and rinsed the ice cream maker, then inverted it on a dish towel on the counter to dry - something I've done plenty of times before. I came back a few hours later to put it away, and the coolant was leaking out all over the place. This is my second KitchenAid ice cream maker to suffer death by leakage, and the third one that's passed through my hands in four months (the second one arrived damaged and unusable thanks to shoddy packaging and shipping by the manufacturer). Based on what I've read on the web, these coolant leaks aren't exactly uncommon, and it seems fairly ridiculous to me for it to happen repeatedly after only half a dozen uses each time. So I'm throwing in the towel on ice cream making. For now, anyway (if anyone wants to gift me a stand-alone Cuisanart ice cream maker, on the other hand... well, I wouldn't turn it down).

This is especially sad for me because I was really excited for my next flavor: Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream. A friend had been nagging me to come up with "a really good fall flavor" (Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Ice Cream wasn't good enough for you?), and I thought that might be it. Alas, the world will never know.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Galahad

It always surprises me how the faintest smell or sound can immediately take me back to some place. This song is no exception. Just hearing the first few notes remind of this Josh Ritter show in Dallas. He's one of my favorite artists to see live, and he's hilarious, passionate and energetic in-person. Listen closely to the lyrics and you'll get a special taste of his sense of humor.


Monday, October 10, 2011

When a Cookie Just Isn't Enough

I went on an oatmeal raisin cookie kick earlier this summer, so it's no surprise that one of the ice cream flavors I've been most excited to try my hand at is Oatmeal Raisin Cookie. I finally got the chance last weekend, and I have to admit - it tastes almost exactly like the real thing! Brown sugar-cinnamon ice cream base with oatmeal praline and rum-soaked raisins mixed in. I followed the recipe exactly and was completely happy with the results. The only real advice I have is to watch your caramel carefully when you're making the pralines - overcooking it gives the praline a strong flavor that overwhelms the other elements of the ice cream. The rest of my notes for the recipe are in italics, below.

Oatmeal Raisin Ice Cream
Recipe by David Lebovitz, via Dinner and Dessert.

Raisins:

¼ cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup raisins
2 teaspoons whiskey (I used rum)

Ice Cream:
1 cup whole milk
½ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Oatmeal Praline:
¾ cup rolled oats (not instant)
½ cup sugar
Pinch of coarse salt (I used kosher)

To prepare the raisins, heat the water and sugar in a small saucepan.  Add the raisins and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until all but about 2 tablespoons of the syrup has been absorbed, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the whiskey (or rum). Set aside until ready to mix into ice cream. (Most of the rest of the liquid will be absorbed. I let mine sit for 4 hours or so, then strained off what wasn't absorbed before adding the raisins to the ice cream.)

To prepare the praline, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, spread the oats evenly on the sheet, and bake for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice while baking, until the oats are fragrant and nicely toasted.  Remove from the oven. 

Spread the sugar in a medium, heavy-bottomed skillet and cook over medium heat, watching it carefully.  When it begins to liquify and darken at the edges, use a heatproof spatula to stir it very gently, encouraging the heat of the liquefied sugar around the edges to moisten and melt the sugar crystals in the center. Tilt the pan and stir gently until all the sugar is melted and the caramel begins to smoke. (Watch this carefully. Overcooking it makes the praline flavor overwhelming to the other flavors in the ice cream.) Once the mixture is deep golden, remove it from the heat and immediately add the oats to the skillet (lift the foil to guide them in quickly).  Return the foil to the baking sheet.

Stir the oats gently but quickly, coating them with the caramel.  Scrape the oats onto the foil-lined baking sheet and spread them as well as possible (and quickly, as they set up fast).  Sprinkle with the salt and let cool completely.  Once firm, break the praline oats into small pieces by pulsing them in a food processor or placing the pieces in a heavy-duty plastic bag and smacking them with a mallet or rolling pin. Set aside until ready to mix into ice cream.

To make the ice cream, warm the milk, granulated sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan.  Whisk the cream, brown sugar, and cinnamon together into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.  Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.  Be careful not to cook over too high heat, or the eggs will scramble and ruin the custard. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream.  Mix in the vanilla and stir until cool over an ice bath.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  During the last few minutes of churning, add the raisins and oatmeal praline.

For best flavor, let sit overnight for all the flavors to mellow and meld.

And, voila! 


It really does taste like an oatmeal raisin cookie, with all the brown sugar and cinnamon and plump raisins and toasted oats. I devoured this batch in a week, and no, I don't care what you think of that.

We're finally getting some cooler, fall-like weather here, and this flavor's spices and toasty flavor made a nice bridge between the seasons. But now I'm looking for something a little more traditionally "fall," in the hopes that it will finally encourage the season to arrive and stick around for a while. I think I've hit on the right flavor, so stay tuned....

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Jeepers Creepers

There is a turkey vulture in my backyard. Juliette and I are appropriately nervous, and wondering if he knows something we don't...

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