Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More Ice Cream/Daring Bakers

So some of you know I like to follow the Daring Bakers, but I'm not yet one.  I've put in a request though! But one of my friends is one, so we made the July Daring Bakers Challenge: Swiss Cake Roll Ice Cream Cake together.  Only we made tiny little swiss roll cakes.  In a variety of flavors.  She posted here, so I'm not going to bother reposting.  Plus she took pictures :).  In fact, half the recipes on her blog are things I made with her, so if you want to see what I might be up to, checking with her is one way to do it.

But that's not the point.  The point is, I've been playing with ice cream making, and boy did I play with those cakes.  And we learned a few things about ice cream making in the process.  And that's why I'm posting.  That and I just ate half the cinnamon ice cream I made last night.

She has a nice picture of all of the ice cream on her page, so let me go into detail what we did for each of them.  I'd say all of the ice creams turned out very well, and all we did was stir them every hour.  Of course, these were all very rich ice creams and were eaten immediately.  I'm not sure what they were like 48 hours later.  But I think the richness helped prevent crystalizations.

For all of these we chilled overnight, then put them in the freezer and stirred them every hour.  I probably didn't stir hard enough, but I'm learning.  And they all turned out well.

Chocolate: I actually blogged about this one recently.  Absolutely delicious, but doesn't hold its form.

Peach and Blueberry:  I used David Lebovitz's vanilla ice cream recipe, split it in half and pureed 4 skinned peaches into half and maybe a cup and a half of blueberries into the other half.  Both were amazing and I couldn't think of anything I would have done differently.

Lime: This was the only ice cream I didn't see everything that was done for.  I think this warmed 1 1/3 cup of milk with lime zest from 2-3 limes, then added it to one (or two) eggs, beaten with a half cup of sugar, slowly, beating vigorously to temper the egg, the added it back to the pan and simmered for a few minutes, then added it to 2/3 cup cream.  Then we (well, actually not me) added the juice of 2-3 limes.

Cinnamon and Chili:  I made them separately, but I might as well describe them together, since I did the same thing (though the chili would be better if you infused fresh cayenne pepper into the cream, rather than adding cayenne powder).  Both froze suprisingly well.  After looking up recipes for cinnamon ice cream, I realized that they all sounded to me like make pudding, add cream and freeze.  So that's what I did.  Since we didn't have cinnamon sticks on hand, I added about a teaspoon of cinnamon to 1 1/3 cups of milk and about 3/8 of a cup of sugar and brought it to a boil and cooked for 2 minutes.  I poured this into an egg, beating steadily to temper the egg, then added the egg to the pudding, and cooked another couple minutes.  But it was weird and goopy, like the filling in cinnamon rolls, not like cinnamon infused milk.  It also had a little bit of egg bits in it, so I strained it into 2/3 cup cream cream and blended really well, to mix the cinnamon goop into cream thouroughly.  It wasn't cinnamony enough, I would have started with more (or added extra cinnamon sooner, rather than after mixing it into the cream).  I probably added another 2 teaspoons.  The recipe I based it off of was a side to apple pie or something, so it was much milder than we wanted.  I also added a dash of vanilla to smooth out the flavor.  We made the chili identically, only we only started with a half teaspoon of chili in the milk and sugar mixture and seasoned to to taste later.  We may have added too much, I think it got more intense as it froze.  But it went well with the other ice creams.  Also, it wasn't as goopy, so that wasn't an issue.

Last night I tried making cinnamon ice cream with cinnamon sticks rather than cinnamon.  I warmed a cup of milk with 3 cinnamon sticks, then took it off heat and let it simmer for about an hour.  I should have given it more time, but I was getting impatient.  I made the "pudding" like I did last time, but it kind of separated, I'm not quite sure what went wrong.  And I added cinnamon after mixing it into the cream, which was a bad idea, since it didn't mix in very well.  So in summary: I messed up a lot.  And then I froze it and you can't even tell.  It's great, it's creamy, no crystalization (at least not immediately after freezing).  I think this tells me that the egg is pretty crucial if you make it without an ice cream machine.  The extra richness prevents crystilization (and gives it shape as opposed to the chocolate ice soup I made last week).

As I experiment more, I share more tips I discover for making ice cream without a machine.  I might start making more interesting flavors at some point too.  After all, I think designing ice cream flavors would be the best job ever.  But I'll do math instead.

Still accepting flavor recommendations.  Once I get my hands on a lychee, I'm thinking about trying a coconut lychee or a lychee lime.  Or maybe I'll just do lychee lime.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ice Cream?

Least photogenic ice cream EVER.

So I've been playing with making ice cream.  And this is almost surely the tastiest ice cream I've ever eaten.  But when trying to take a picture of it I realized it doesn't really hold it's shape, so maybe it's not ice cream, more like really cold, cream?

It is addicting and chocolaty.  I'd say it is comparable to Nutella in this way.  It's also terrible for you.  And the flavor is what one of my friends might call a "grown up flavor," which is what he said about homemade toffee the first time he tried it (versus health bar).  That's probably from cooking it long enough to caramelize the sugar.

You know what, I just realized the problem.  Higher fat content freezes at a lower temperature, possibly lower than that of my freezer, meaning it is left runny.  It's okay, it still tastes great.  Amazing, really.  Better than any other chocolate ice cream out there.  And you really don't have to stir it since it doesn't really freeze.  The only thing I can think of deserving of such an amazing chocolate ice cream is fresh bing cherries.  Yum!  Oh, for the record, I darkened this up a little by adding a little extra cocoa and a little less sugar.  It originally had a cup of sugar and 3 Tbsp cocoa.

Chocolate Ice Cream
2 cups cream
3/4 c sugar
3 heaping Tbsp cocoa

Combine ingredients in saucepan, whisk together until blended.  Cook over low heat until bubbling, then cook until thicker (and to taste on the caramelization).

Cool.  Put in a freezer proof container.  Chill until cold.  Freeze.  Enjoy in EXTREME moderation.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Broccoli Pesto

I promised a post about the most amazing chocolate ice cream ever, but that will wait another day so I can hopefully take pictures of it.  Today I accidently ate enough of it while "stirring" so I'm not going to have a scoop.  But on with the broccoli pesto.

Who likes broccoli stems?  Not me.  I know some people do, but... yuck.  I usually just by the crowns and feel like less is going to waste if I throw them away.  But those big packages were on sale today, and those are you know, mostly stem, so I hate for it to go to waste.  It was going to be a simple dinner: broccoli and quinoa with some spices.  Then I realized I could make a pretend double broccoli quinoa by making a broccoli pesto, mixing it in to the quinoa and topping it with broccoli.  I've posted about that before, but as a separate post for those who don't like quinoa.  The point is, it's a good way to get rid of broccoli stems.  I guess you could top pasta or couscous with it, but I like it with quinoa, also it pairs well with avocados.  In fact, you could probably sub avocados for cream, but I think that is a waste of an avocado (they kind of get lost)

Broccoli pesto
1 head broccoli or leftover stems
2 cloves garlic
1/8 c almonds, sliced or slivered break up faster
1/8 c parmesan cheese
1/4 c cream (I used milk)
extra virgin olive oil to make smooth (1/4 c-1/2 c?)

Steam the broccoli until soft but not squishy.  This should take 5-8 minutes?

Blend broccoli, garlic, almonds parmesan cheese, cream until smooth (well, until broccoli is pureed) in food processor (or Magic Bullet).  Drizzle oil in and blend until smooth.

As a warning, this is pretty... intense.  The broccoli gives it a sharp kick, and the garlic... well, it's like raw garlic.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ice Cream!

Another way to generate reader comments is this conversation about ice cream.  So I'll start with a question: what's your favorite kind of ice cream?  As for me, I may have mentioned this before, but I really can't choose.  At an ice cream shop, I usually choose chocolate peanut butter, but what I buy at the store is more dependent on my mood.  It almost always involves chocolate, but when I gave up chocolate for a month, I learned to appreciate nonchocolate desserts even more.  And I've always had a soft spot for peach ice cream.  Peachy and creamy, yum!  I also LOVE any ice cream with a swirl of berry, but they are really hard to find!  Berry ice creams, no problem, but vanilla or chocolate ice cream with swirls of berry: not so much.  Okay, enough about that.

This summer I decided to try to make ice cream.  Without an ice cream maker.  I first checked with David Lebovitz who says you should make a custard style, rich ice cream at least when you are first learning.  Serious Eats seems to agree.  But I was not game for separating 5+ eggs for an experiment.  So I decided to try it without the eggs, after all if it turned out, that meant that I could make ice cream without eggs and if it didn't, well, then I learned something.

What I did: cooked 1 cup milk with 2 skinned peaches (note: skin peaches by putting them in boiling water for about 30 seconds) and a little salt until it was boiling for a little while.  I whisked in 2 cups of cream and 2 tablespoons of arrowroot (I generally followed the instructions from a vegan ice cream book which, in a sense, uses arrowroot rather than egg, most likely as a thickener.  One could use cornstarch, but cornstarch likes to boil, so it is best added to foods before they cook).  I added a teaspoon* of vanilla, stirred this, chilled it for a couple hours, then froze it, stirring every hour, until I went to bed (roughly 9 hours later, it wasn't sufficiently chilled, apparently) at which time I stirred in two more peaches.  Seven hours later, I got up and stirred it and stirred it again about 5 hours later, well I tried to.  It was grainy and pretty frozen by this point.  It tasted pretty good, but it was grainy.  I also thought it tasted too much like cream and wasn't peachy enough to be called peach ice cream (it might have also been to vanilla-y not to be called vanilla).

What I learned: I'm not yet sold that ice cream cannot be made without an ice cream maker and with no eggs, but I think it might take more experimentation.  Plus, it probably tastes better with the eggs, I'm just lazy.  But what I learned is what one should do is make the cream one night, chill overnight and get up the next morning, stirring every hour.  And stir hard!  According to Serious Eats, above, adding air helps crystilazation from occuring.  Granted, it also makes it a little less thick and creamy, so there's a downside.  This is where evaporated milk helps, theoretically.

So what ice cream should I try next?  I'm going to need to try some new techniques, but of course, vanilla is just too boring.  It kind of makes me angry in fact, by it's boringness.

*my teaspoon of vanilla or cinnamon or a variety of other spices is always more

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Citrus and fennel lentil salad

Some people don't think of lentils as a very summery food.  After all, lentil soup is often their main purpose (or if you are Indian and vegetarian, everything is their main purpose, but that's not what I mean).  But lentils can make a nice salad when paired with the right vinaigrette.  However, you should probably use green because in my experience brown lentils just taste... blah.  No matter what you do to them they are just bland.  Green lentils tend to absorb flavor a little better, so I like to cook up a cup with garlic, shallots and bay leaf to give them a nice flavor and then use them in a variety of things.  Even summer things.

Truthfully, to make this a totally summery salad, one should probably use fresh fennel.  I used dried, ground fennel because i figured it would be a great chance to dig into my spice drawer of rarely used spices and I didn't want to buy the fresh stuff.  But the fresh stuff would definitely look nicer.

So this salad (and I should have taken a picture, but now it's half gone and no longer pretty) consists of 3-4 parts: lettuce, veggie "salsa", lentils and dressing.  You could really use any veggies you have on hand, but I like to use onions, peppers and tomatoes in everything.  They are my go to veggies.  And being in Georgia, in summer, vidalias are all over the place, but red onion would be great in this too.

As for the dressing, this is where I get to (I think for the second time) remind you how to make a good vinaigrette.  The key is emulsifying, usually done by adding an emulsifier: mustard, honey, eggs, I think buttermilk also works as an emulsifier, but that's obviously the opposite of a vinaigrette, but it explains why mustard or buttermilk or something along these lines appears in almost dressing.  And then of course, blending.  Putting everything in a jar and shaking is not enough to make a good vinagrette.  And there is something about adding the oil at the end from a height of like 6 inches or something.  I should check that out and get back to you and give you good advice.  But my favorite emulsifier is honey.  And it's usually the only one I have on hand (well, I have eggs, but I'm scared to put raw eggs in salad dressing, but that's what they all seem to do.

I've been watching Top Chef lately, so please excuse the overly detailed "flavor profile" I'm going to include.  Overall, it tastes fresh, like summer.  That's the point.  The citrus and cilantro hit you up front (and that is in my opinion, unless you are eating burgers or corn on the cob, the quintessential summer taste) and then the aftertaste is refreshing fennel.  Mint would also work, I think.  The lentils add texture and protein, but don't really affect the taste.

I'm trying a layout that very much works with my cooking process.  Make each component at once.  So make sure you read the whole thing if you are interested in recreating this.  I guess one of the components is as much romaine lettuce as you want to use, that doesn't really require much thought.

Citrus and Fennel Lentil Salad
Serves 2-3
1/2 c green lentils
1 c water
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
salt, to taste

Put everything in a saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 30 minutes.  Note, I used slightly less water because I like my lentils a little firmer, I'm not a fan of when they turn to mush, and I always worry that if I add too much water they will.

Set aside.   I like it best if they are a little warm on top of the salad.

Veggie Salsa
I call this a salsa because if you chopped everything a little finer and added a chili, that's what it would be.  Remember, this is where you can use what you have on hand.  The size which you chop the veggies doesn't really matter, if you try to keep them consistent
1 medium tomato roughly chopped
1 medium vidalia onion (or red onion), roughly chopped
1 green pepper, roughly chopped
1/4 c cilantro.  But remember, I REALLY like cilantro.  Feel free to back off
Pinch of orange zest (optional, but very nice)

Fennel dressing
Juice of one lemon (lime would likely work)
1/4 tsp ground fennel (fresh of course would be better and then you could garnish it with that too)
Pinch of marjoram (for some reason I think of marjoram as being a good supporter of fennel)
Freshly ground salt and pepper
1/4-c olive oil, those who like the taste of extra virgin should use that
1/2 tsp-1 tsp honey

Combine lemon juice, fennel, marjoram salt and pepper in a blender.  Pour oil while mixing (swirling), add honey and blend until homogeneous.

Serve over romaine lettuce, however much you want.  I layered the veggie salsa on the lettuce, then the warm lentils and poured the dressing on top.  I ate it with grapes, and thought that went well, very summery.