Sunday, February 19, 2012

vanilla-bean ice cream: sweet memories


It's unbearably hot. The sun is shining down on me. As I race my bike down the street, I think about how great it will be once I'm there. When I arrive, I lock up my bike and step through the gate. 

I see the water glistening, just waiting for me. It's as it always is, full of people but always special. A place where I know I can always be happy. I see my friends and make my way over to them. We all look at each other, and then go for it.

 

CANNON BALL!

My pool, the public pool. It's where I practiced swimming everyday and then came back every evening to play. It's where my friends and I would go to escape and just be silly. It's where I learned how to dive (forward and backward), where I had tea parties under water and did endless water summersaults. It's also where I would spend my allowance: at the canteen.

 
    

Growing up with foreigner parents was certainly different than some of my other friends. When I heard that other kids would get weekly allowances, I asked my mom if I could also have one. Sure, she said. I'll give you five dollars a week.


.....


SWEET.


And straight to the canteen it went. 5 cents candies? Yes, please. Licorice ribbon? Yes. Coke bottle jujubes? Oh baby, yes. But the biggest treat of all...80 cent ice cream sandwiches. I was the happiest person ever when I had one of those.

I can't stress enough how much I love ice cream (although my stomach may not always agree). The rich, creamy taste with its delicate silkiness. Ice cream makes me so happy. But it doesn't have to be reserved just for summer. Ice cream can be served at any time of the year. Now, you might be thinking that it's too cold in the winter. Well, if you live in an apartment like mine that's confused and thinks it's actually in Cuba, then you can have it anytime you want. In fact, I may have some right now. And you should too.
  

Vanilla-Bean Ice Cream

This is another great ice cream recipe from The Perfect Scoop. It's really easy to follow and results in a delicious vanilla ice cream. This should be a staple in any household. Using a vanilla bean definitely makes a big difference, so try not to skip out on it.

Yields approximately 1 liter
Ingredients

1 cup (250 ml) whole milk (3.25%)
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream (35% whipping)
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
6 large egg yolks
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
Procedure

Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup (250 ml) of the cream, and salt in a medium sauce pan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the warm milk and add the bean as well. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature  for 30 minutes.

Pour the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) of cream 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 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, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (If you run your finger across the back of the spatula and it leaves a definite trail that doesn't flow back together, then it's done!) Make sure to never let the custard get above 85 C (185 F) otherwise you'll have scrambled eggs! Pour the custard through the strainer and stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator at least one hour or more. When ready to churn, remove the vanilla bean, rinsing and reserving it for another use (homemade vanilla extract, perhaps?) and then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. 

You can also make ice cream cookie sandwiches like from my Valentine's post.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

spicy brownie cookie ice cream sandwiches: be my valentine



It's funny how the things I once loved so much are now being passed down to my niece. Everyday she is growing and learning something new. I never thought I'd think this, but it's actually exciting to watch her learn and discover her world on a daily basis. 

It makes me happy to see her singing the songs I used to cherish, or play with the toys I played with (or wish I had played with). For Christmas I gave her a CD of Raffi songs and now all she does is walk around in circles with her hands up asking for Mr. Sun.

Those songs were my childhood. I would listen to them on my dad's record player and dance around in the basement. How can such silly little songs make someone so happy? And honestly, they still make me happy. A kid's life; how simple and worry-free. I wish I had known back then that deciding which song I wanted to listen to would be my toughest decision.


Well recently, the "tough" decision that I had to make was deciding what kind of Valentine's Day dessert to make. I could have made the obvious heart-shaped cookies (which I actually do find very adorable), heart cake pops (but didn't have time to get lollipop sticks) or make something totally different (a failed attempt at mousse and panna cotta together). So instead I went with something more familiar but with a tiny addition. With vanilla ice cream at my disposal, I made some irresistibly delicious chewy chocolate brownie cookies and turned them into ice cream sandwiches.  

But it wasn't enough. 

Then my personal assistant (ahem, boyfriend) had a great idea. "How about a spicy Valentine with a tiny sprinkling of cayenne pepper?" Yes! However, if you're anything like me and can't handle spices, try not to go overboard. All you need is a very small dusting to give the chocolate a nice kick. Don't worry, the ice cream is there to balance out the spice. 


I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed them. What's that? I should freeze them and not eat them all at once? Yeah, you're probably right, but I won't tell anyone if you don't.

Check out all the other great Valentine's Day recipes at the Dollhouse Bake Shoppe link party this Sunday, February 5th, 2012!



Spicy Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Yields approximately 24 cookies
Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats
 
Ingredients

8 oz. (240 g) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz. (360 g) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
a touch of cayenne pepper for sprinkling

Procedure

Preheat oven to 350˚ F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Combine the 8 ounces chopped chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, and heat until the chocolate and butter are melted and smooth, stirring occasionally.  (Or, heat in the microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring in between - don't let the chocolate burn).  In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the eggs, brown sugar and vanilla.  Beat on medium-high speed until the sugar has completely dissolved, about 4-5 minutes.  Reduce the speed to low and add the melted chocolate mixture, blending until incorporated.  Add in the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.  Fold in the remaining chopped chocolate with a spatula.  Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2-3 inches apart (You can use an ice cream scoop seeing as it's quite goopey).
Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the cookies are just slightly soft in the center and crackly on top, about 9-12 minutes. Sprinkle a tiny touch of cayenne pepper on cookies for an added spicy kick. Let cool on baking sheets 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

For sandwiches:

When cookies are cool enough to handle, place a scoop of ice cream between two cookies and squish down a little to make an ice cream sandwich. Store in freezer.

You can use any flavour you want. I used a homemade vanilla-bean ice cream since I figured the cookies would be rich enough.

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