Vanilla Ice Cream

Dear David Lebovitz,

You are awesome.  I think we should be best friends.  We should hang out and stuff.

Sincerely,

Ali

p.s. My husband loves your ice cream.

Have I mentioned recently that I am in love with David Lebovitz and the magic he makes in his tiny Paris kitchen?  If you haven’t been reading his blog, you probably should.  It was from him that I got that amazing Devil’s Food Cake recipe with the coffee in it.  Mmmm …

The Pie came to visit me for Thanksgiving, so I wanted to make sure to make all of his favourite things for when he was here.  Because one of our family friends always brings  her amazing pumpkin pie to our Thanksgiving dinner, I figured what better complement to the dessert than a home-made ice cream?  And vanilla is the Pie’s favourite.  I’ve never made a “cooked” ice cream before but I have recently learned that all the things that used to intimidate me about cooking are not as hard as I once thought them to be.  So here we go.

This recipe, of course, is adapted from David Lebovitz.  You should read his post about it for all the interesting information about vanilla and where it comes from and how you can store your used beans. 

Start with 1 cup whole milk.  I used half whipping cream and half 1% milk, because that’s what I had.

Grab yourself as well 3/4 cup sugar.

Heat the milk and sugar in a saucepan.

Split a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the milk and add the pod as well.  My vanilla bean was dried out so it kind of disintegrated on me, but that’s okay.

Remove the milk from the heat, cover it, and allow it to infuse for about an hour.

Set up an ice bath

Place a smaller bowl (at least 2L) in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water.  Set a strainer over top of the smaller bowl.

Pour 2 cups heavy cream (whipping cream) through the strainer.

Separate eight eggs and reserve the yolks (I used the whites to make chocolate meringues).

Stir the yolks together.

Re-warm your infused milk and gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly.

Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly (and I mean constantly) and scraping the bottom of the saucepan with a spatula, until the custard (because that’s what it is) thickens enough to coat the spatula.  It won’t take long so keep an eye out.

Strain the custard into the heavy cream and stir over the ice in the bath until it’s cool. 

Chuck the vanilla bean pod back into the mix.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

I also added here 3 tablespoons Screech rum.  Lebovitz says that adding a little bit of alcohol to your ice cream will make it softer after it’s made.

When you are ready to freeze your ice cream, take out the vanilla bean pod and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Store in an airtight container in your freezer until thoroughly frozen.

Serve.  So very creamy …

Raspberry Ice Cream

I’m taking advantage of the berries on sale at the grocery store to make raspberry ice cream out of season.  Obviously, local raspberries would make this frozen treat even better, but we do what we can with what’s available.

Take two cups of fresh raspberries (frozen will also do, just use a little bit less), and wash them and do all that good stuff (though perhaps not if they’re frozen).

Take a cup of granulated sugar.  Y’know, like, a cup.

Pour both the raspberries and the sugar into a food processor.

Blend for about 45 seconds until you have a lovely thick pulp.  Pour the pulp into a strainer suspended over a bowl.

Try not to spill too much.

Use a rubber spatula to force the pulp through the strainer until only seeds remain.  Compost them there seeds.

Now you have a lovely red and now seedless pulp.Add to your lovely red and now seedless pulp a teaspoon of lemon juice, 2 cups whipping cream, and between 1 and 3 tablespoons of a fruit-based liqueur, such as kirsch.  You add the alcohol to make the ice cream softer — David Lebovitz says so.  Swirl that stuff around.Here is where I became an idiot.  My parents’ Austrian neighbour came back from a trip abroad and gave us two little bottles, one of nut schnapps and another of what I thought was kirsch.

Because that’s what it says.  You can see it right there.

But I dumped the whole thing in the mixture before I actually read the rest of the label and discovered it was in actual fact CHERRY BALSAMIC VINEGAR.

Ooops.

But you know, once I mixed everything together, it didn’t taste that bad.  Honest.  I added some of the schnapps as a corrective, as well.  It tasted a little more tart than usual, but nothing out of the ordinary.  I was worried it would be a floor pizza situation, but I figured I would roll with it and see what came of it.

Of course, whether that will affect the quality of the frozen product remains to be seen.  Wrap up your bowl of mix and chuck it in the fridge overnight.

This is also a good time to freeze the parts of your ice cream maker that need to be frozen, if they do.  I have one of these Donvier non-electric turning ones, where you freeze the liner.

The next day, just plop your mix into your maker and follow the instructions for your machine.

With mine the process from thick goo …

… to frozen goo …

Takes about twenty minutes.

Pour out into a freezable container and chuck it in the freezer to harden up.

Serve when you’re ready. 

This version tastes a wee bit like balsamic vinegar but it ain’t bad.  Next time, though, I think I would leave out the vinegar part. 

Frozen Rhubarb Fool

Rhubarb.  ROOOO-barb.  What a weird word.  It is, apparently, a vegetable.  The more you know.

My childhood equivalent of an ice cream treat was my mother’s tart yet sweet rhubarb fool.  You can even find this recipe in my mother’s cookbook.  We used to grow so much rhubarb in Nova Scotia that it was actually possible to hide among its leaves.  Needless to say, rhubarb in its many forms graced our table often. 

This easy dessert has only three ingredients: 1 cup whipping cream, 2 cups stewed and sweetened rhubarb (plop your raw, chopped rhubarb in a pot with some sugar and bring it to a boil.  Tada, you’re done), and a little bit of granulated sugar.

In a bowl, whip up your whipping cream until it’s as stiff as you can get it.

Try to avoid getting it all over yourself.  I always fail.

Anyway, you have your whipped cream.  Add a bit of sugar so it’s a little bit sweet.  If your stewed rhubarb isn’t that sweet, you might want to add more sugar to the cream.

Add the stewed rhubarb.

Fold it in so it’s all swirly with rhubarby goodness.

Spread evenly in a 9-inch pie pan and chuck it in the freezer.  Give it at least three hours to freeze all the way through.

Take it out of the freezer about 20 minutes before you want to serve it.

Cut it like a pie, garnish it with what you want, and serve it up.  Sweet and tart!

Chicken in Toronto

In the last week of August I went to Toronto for the Molson Canadian World Hockey Summit, which was incredibly exciting for me, to be able to rub elbows with all the people I hope to know personally once I’ve finished my doctorate.

I was also able to meet the Pie in town on two nights and catch some Blue Jays games.  This is Jose Bautista.  He’s not much to look at but he got a home run on one night.

I stayed with my best friend Chel and her lovely new husband Invis right downtown.  Talk about making the most out of a small space!  Here is their tiny kitchen, with Invis filling up most of it.  Chel had the clever idea of using one of her favourite coat hangers (because she couldn’t find another place for it) to hang up her pots and pans. I think it’s genius.

One night  they were kind enough to allow me to cook them dinner, and we decided, since it was hot and humid in the Big Smoke, to keep things on the simple side.  We settled on a chicken rosé sauce on pasta followed by vanilla ice cream with strawberry and red currant fruit sauce.

We decided to feature basil in the recipe because Chel has been keeping a lush little plant going for some time.Chop up a few boneless skinless chicken breasts, as well as a small onion, some mushrooms, and a red pepper or two.  And don’t forget lots and lots of fresh basil.

Chuck the onion in a pot with some olive oil and sauté until translucent.Season your chicken breasts and plop them in as well.  Stir it around until the chicken is cooked through.Add in your basil and let that aroma fill the space as it heats up.Then drop in your vegetables and let them cook for a wee spell.Now you can pour in a jar of your favourite pasta or other tomato sauce.Add in some whipping cream as well, about 250mL.  Let the whole thing simmer.If you find it’s too watery you can add in a can of tomato paste to thicken it up.Serve over your pasta of choice and you’ve got a lovely meal.Now while that is simmering you can whip up your dessert fruit sauce.  We found some lovely fresh red currants in the grocery store so I added them, some cut up strawberries, a bit of sugar, and some juice to the pot and set it to boil.Once you have simmered it for a while, remove it from the heat and let it cool while you eat your dinner.  Pour it over ice cream and you’re all set.

Vanilla Cake

For his birthday (which was on the 21st), the Pie requested a vanilla cake.  Conveniently for me this is also the type of cake requested by Chel and Invis for their wedding cake, which I will be making next May.  No time like the present to begin perfecting a recipe.

Vanilla cake is also traditionally known as “white cake”, which forms the base for millions of different kinds of cakes.  This one, however, I wanted to make sure that vanilla was what you got out of the whole thing, not just some bland cake designed to set off a fancy frosting.

You may not know this, but vanilla extract is made by soaking cut vanilla beans (which come from orchids) in a strong dark spirit, such as rum or bourbon.  I figured, what the hey, might as well try it myself.  I got two vanilla beans from Belbin’s and poured about a tablespoon of Screech into the little tube.  You’re supposed to leave it for a few months, but I only had a week.  So that’s what I did.

I was also careful to scrape out all the vanilla bean seeds to enhance the flavour.

The batter for this cake was inspired by the Whiteout Cake in Lewis and Poliafito’s Baked.  When I go to Manhattan to visit my brother, I want to see their bakery.  Anyway, I changed the icing, added jam, and of course used extra vanilla, both my own special Screech blend and regular pure extract.

THE CAKE

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Butter three 8″ round cake pans, line them with parchment circles (which I make using my personal kitchen compass), and then butter the parchment as well.

Dust the pans with flour and knock out the excess.  I definitely did something wrong in this step, because my cakes STUCK.  But I’ll get to that later.

Separate three eggs and bring the whites to room temperature.  I set mine in the sun for a few minutes.  Use the yolks the next day in a tasty omelette.  We did.

Sift together in a bowl 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon baking soda.  Set this aside for a spell.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup vegetable shortening on medium speed until they’re creamy.

This will take about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add in 1 3/4 cups sugar and 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract.

Beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Scrape down the bowl and add one whole egg, then beat until just combined.

Turn the mixer to low and add your flour mixture as well as 1 1/2 cups ice water.  Add the flour in three separate additions, alternating with the water, and starting and ending with the flour.  Scrape down the bowl and mix on low speed for another minute or so.

In a separate bowl, whisk together your 3 egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar until you reach the soft peak stage.

Gently fold the egg whites into the rest of your batter.

Distribute the batter amongst the three pans and smooth the tops.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating halfway through, until you can insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake and it comes out clean.

Invert onto racks and let cool completely before frosting (you can remove the parchment when they’re cool).  You will notice how I lost a few of my cake edges.  But I guess that’s what icing is for — to fill the gaps.

THE FROSTING

In a bowl, plop in 2 250g packages of cream cheese, preferably at room temperature.  Add in 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, as well as 3/4 cup heavy cream (whipping cream) and 3/4 cup icing sugar

Beat with a hand mixer until mostly smooth.

In a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl set above a pot of barely simmering water, melt 12 oz white chocolate.

Add the melted chocolate to the cream cheese mixture and beat the crap out of it until it’s smooth.

THE CRUMB COAT

Set the first layer of your cake on your serving plate and slather the top with a generous layer of icing (don’t worry, you’re not going to run out).  Add several dollops of jam.

We love our Auntie Crae’s.

Plop on the second layer and repeat the above steps.  Plop on the third layer, and now you can begin your crumb coat. 

We do a crumb coat so that you can get all the messiness out of the way beforehand.  Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of icing.  Don’t worry if crumbs or jam gets into the icing.  This is your priming coat in any case.

Pop it into the fridge for at least fifteen minutes for the icing to set.

Bring it out and slather it with more icing.  You see how that sealant coat keeps the cake’s interior from interfering with the exterior.

Decorate to your whimsy and serve. I used dragées and white sprinkles for this effect.

Keep leftovers covered in the refrigerator.  It has a slight lean because I didn’t bother to level the layers before attaching them, but the Pie liked it well enough.

Classic Apple Crumble

My mother's cookbook.

You know the expression ‘easy as apple pie’?  Well this is easier.

I was born and spent a large part of my single-digit years in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  During that time my mother and our neighbour got together and wrote a cookbook of Maritime recipes: Two Cooks in a Kitchen.  You can even get it on Amazon for about $7.  This recipe is on page 84.

I remember one summer we borrowed another neighbour’s car, a slick BMW, and drove to the Annapolis Valley to go apple picking.  At one point, I was foraging for windfalls in an orchard when I heard a rustling above me, and then my dad fell out of the tree next to me.  Ah, childhood.  We returned with bushels of apples and huge jars full of fresh honey and apple cider.  It was a great day.  Apple crisp, one of my mother’s specialties, always reminds me of that day.

The recipe calls for Gravenstein apples, but anything other than Granny Smith will usually do.  You don’t have to get too fancy with the cutting, and don’t worry if your apples are a little bruised.  I like to leave the skins on my apples, but you can peel them if you want.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  In a bowl combine one cup flour, one teaspoon cinnamon, 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup softened butter, and 1/2 cup oats.  I use a pastry cutter to mix them together.  The mixture should be crumbly looking.

Crumble mixture

Butter a 1.5L casserole dish (cooking spray just will NOT do) and sprinkle 1/3 of the crumb mixture on the bottom.

If you use anything other than butter for this someone will smack you.

Slice up 6 or 7 medium apples, and plonk them in the dish.  I press them down a little bit so everything fits.

Don't worry about perfect slices - they all look the same in the end.

Top with the remaining crumb mixture.  Again, I like to pat this down a bit just to keep everything together.

Pat down your crumbs so they don't get everywhere.

Cover the casserole and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake for a further 30 minutes.  Alternately, you can leave the whole thing uncovered – just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.  It’s done when the top is a nice golden brown.  Serve immediately with ice cream or whipped cream.  I *may* (maybe) have eaten this for breakfast more than once (but without the ice cream, I’m not that decadent).

Serve hot with ice cream or whipped cream. My favourite!