Friday, December 28, 2012

From biggest failure to biggest success

The use-'em-or-lose-'em vacation day policy at work left me with a lot of days at the end of this year. Instead of couchsurfing in Europe or visiting friends in DC, I borrowed my sister's self-cooling ice cream maker (mine has a drum that you need to re-freeze), and I've been spending most of my time in the kitchen. I've made chocolate, Mexican chocolate, peanut butter, maple with buttered pecans, lemon with olive oil, and my first batch of waffle cones. My friend came over last night to help get rid of some of the evidence. I gave him a taste tour, from biggest failure to biggest success.

"This one's you're biggest failure?" he asked. "Yes," I said, "It's too chewy." The tasting continued with my nitpicky commentary and, when I asked which he wanted more of, he chose peanut butter -- the one that was the slightest bit too crumbly. While he could see what I was talking about, he said he wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't pointed it out. And, besides, the flavor is ridiculous.

There's a distinct possibility that I'm crazy. My friend Chyna's mom said the peanut butter and Mexican chocolate are perfect as is, especially when paired together. In terms of my chocolate, some people say that chewy ice cream is "highly treasured." And my friend Ian loves my maple pecan so much that he ordered a quart of it. This all may be so. But I'm not just looking for delicious. I'm looking for perfectly delicious. And so, when I repeat these flavors...
...the chocolate won't be as chewy.
...the peanut butter will be smoother.
...the maple pecan will be a little less sweet.
...the Mexican chocolate will have a more flavorful heat.
...the lemon olive oil will stay exactly how it is.

Here's to perfect ice cream, and to the imperfect ice cream still being scoop-worthy.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Where people love ice cream

I was wondering where an ice cream business would be the most successful and decided to ask the Internet. In terms of countries, it looks like the United States is in the lead right now, but reports over the last 10 years show some stiff competition from Australia and New Zealand. Looking more closely at the United States, this infographic pretty much sums it up (and is also a strong indication that I'm not the only one interested in learning about this):

Merci, Pierre Hermé!

Last month, I went to see Pierre Hermé speak at the Harvard School of Design on "The Architecture of Taste." He focused a lot on "flavor themes" and how he takes a theme and translates it into different dessert mediums. For example, ispahan -- a theme of rose, lychee, and raspberry -- looks different in a cake than it does in a macaron, than it does as nougat (see here).

Whenever he mentioned a new theme, I of course thought about what it would look like as an ice cream...wasabi and grapefruit; mascarpone, caramel, and amber; grapefruit, cloves, and nutmeg; peach, rose, and cumin. I want to be in his brain. 

He let me peek in there a little when he talked about how he's constantly being inspired by things he randomly encounters; the combination of grapefruit and cloves came from a perfume he had smelled. And so, since hearing Hermé, despite whether I've been looking for inspiration or not, I've been finding it just about everywhere -- at a candle shop in Union Square's holiday market; in a spice catalog a friend sent me; at farmers markets, restaurants, and even at CVS (St. Ives "Invigorating Apricot Scrub" also has corn and walnut in it). And, of course, the inspiration I found through attending his talk...

Two things that I left the event wanting to try:
- Meringue either mixed in or as a topping to almond ice cream, inspired by his macarons.
- Stroopwafels either as a mix-in or an ice cream sandwich, inspired by a picture of his liege. 

Oh, and I really can't talk about this event without trying to make your mouth water the way mine did when a plate of four desserts were set down in front of me. 

That one in the back left had candied grapefruit hiding in the middle of the cream filling. The soft spongey bottom of the lemon dessert in the back right had some cookie bits that surprised me in the second bite. The chocolate hazelnut was this ridiculously perfect combination of chewy, crispy and creamy. And, why yes, that glass with grapefruit purée does have wasabi marshmallows on top!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In the holiday spirit

If you ask me, one of the best things about Christmas is waking up and watching the snow fall outside your window, lying warm in your bed, knowing that there's nothing you have to do all day. Nothing you can do all day, aside from watch movies and eat Chinese food. This year, I figured this would all be the same, only without the snow. It hadn't snowed all month.

But when I woke up, I lifted my head, looked out the window, and there it was. It didn't last long. The snowflakes drifted by just long enough to get me into the holiday spirit and into the kitchen. I turned on a Christmas playlist (quietly, since I had house guests) and danced around my pantry, surveying my breakfast options. Belgian waffles. A frittata. Maybe I'd make some poffertjes. I looked at my flours, then to my sugars, and then I reached for the olive oil. We'll have bagels for breakfast. I'm making ice cream.

Olive oil ice cream. One of my house guests had requested it, and I'm glad she did. It has this creaminess that is so effortless and buttery. I hadn't made this flavor since July, and I was so excited about it that I started to sing "it's beginning to look a lot like ice cream" as it churned. Usually I'm alone when I change the words to make songs about ice cream, but this time I had friends around to point out what a big dork I am.

Lemon Olive Oil Ice Cream
Adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream.

There are lots of options with this ice cream. If you want a subtler lemon, you can leave out the lemon syrup. If you like poppyseeds, you can either mix them in at the end of churning or sprinkle them on top. Whatever you choose, use a high-quality olive oil, and the result will be delicious.

For lemon syrup:
1/4 cup lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
1 tablespoon sugar

For ice cream:
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons whipped cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
optional: 2 tablespoons poppyseeds

Before you make the base...
- Remove the zest of two lemons in large strips with a vegetable peeler. Set the zest aside. Then, combine the measured lemon juice and sugar in a small sauce pan. Bring it to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until all of the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a bowl and let it cool in the fridge.
- In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of milk into a slurry.
- Measure out the whipped cream cheese and sea salt into a medium bowl (if you don't have whipped cream cheese, you can whisk the two together).

- In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, corn syrup, lemon zest, and remaining milk and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. While you're waiting for it to boil, fill a large bowl with ice and cold water and set it aside. Boil the mixture for four minutes, keeping an eye on it so it doesn't boil over. Remove from heat and slowly add the cornstarch slurry, whisking constantly.
- Bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring frequently, and boil for approximately one minute, or until it's slightly thickened. Remove from heat and gradually whisk the hot mixture into the cream cheese, starting with a very small amount to make sure the mixture is perfectly smooth. Add the olive oil and whisk until fully incorporated.
- Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag, and place the bag in the prepared ice bath until fully cooled. This usually takes about 30 minutes, and you'll need to add more ice as it melts. If you don't want to churn the ice cream right away, you can cool the mixture in the fridge overnight.

- Discard the lemon zest and pour the mixture into your frozen canister (I do so by cutting a hole in the bottom corner of the bag). Add the lemon syrup and churn according to your ice cream maker's instructions. Optional: In the last minute of churning, add poppyseeds. 
- Pack the ice cream into a quart-sized or two pint-sized containers, press parchment paper on top, and seal the container with an airtight lid. After 4+ hours in the freezer, your ice cream will be ready to eat.

Friday, December 21, 2012

And so it begins

About once a year, I catch up over IM with someone I haven't seen since 2003. We usually talk about our jobs, because advertising is what we have in common. The other night, I got that random annual IM: "You're super special, and I just thought you should know that." He proceeded to give me instructions for his original s'more ice cream recipe and then concluded, "and the fact that you're gonna do it soon is what makes you super special." 

Like I said, we haven't spoken in a year. So, starting the conversation on this topic made me realize that the majority of my Facebook posts are about ice cream. If you ask me, this isn't a bad thing. But, despite my friend's enthusiasm, I know that not everyone cares that I made vanilla with caramel, mexican chocolate, and eggnog last week; that I went on a tour of New York City's best ice cream; or that I just ordered a waffle cone maker. 

For those of you who do care about such things, welcome to my brain-log (or, as some might call it, blog). I'm Kasey, and I'm here to talk about ice cream.