Tag: Ice cream

Adventures in Baking No. 30: Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream and Gingersnaps

Adventures in Baking No. 30: Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream and Gingersnaps

Well, this was one strange baking ride. I originally wanted to make ice cream sandwiches – gingersnaps with pumpkin ice cream sounded like an amazing pairing – but I guess we’ll never know, because the ice cream went way south.

First, I decided to make the Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream recipe from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, one of my ice cream cookbooks (one of two, to be exact). It looked exactly how I expected pumpkin ice cream to be made, based on prior knowledge, and I made the custard with no problem – except for the fact that I had no working thermometer.

Yeah, not only did our instant-read thermometer break, but our meat thermometer (which I sometimes use in severe emergencies) requires two hands and several minutes to work. Since I had neither time nor two hands, as I had to stir the custard constantly after tempering the eggs and putting them back on the heat, I did it by eye.

This, in theory, should have worked: I’ve made custard before, I know what cooked custard looks like, and I did the line test (where you drag your finger through the liquid coating the back of the spoon, and if the line holds it’s done). Moreover, the custard did indeed coat the back of the spoon. I still felt a little nervous, though, so I cooked it for another two minutes (which, at the time, I thought was risky) before straining it and putting it into an ice water bath.

My (theoretically) finished custard.

Then I read the instructions, because this was when (drawing on having read the beginning of the recipe and having read many ice cream recipes) I thought I should add the pumpkin puree.

Nowhere in the instructions did it tell me to add the puree.

I’m serious. The ingredients called for puree, and there was even a little blue bubble note telling me that I could use my own homemade pumpkin puree (who even has time for that?), but nowhere in the actual instructions did it tell me to add the pumpkin. I think I stared at the page for a full five minutes, wondering whether or not I was somehow too tired to read properly before realizing, after reading it for the hundredth time, that I wasn’t crazy. The instructions just didn’t mention the pumpkin. At all.

So I just said “Why not?” and added the pumpkin to the finished base. I beat it in with a whisk until smooth and then chilled the custard.

Next, I made the gingersnaps, which was way more soothing. The recipe, from How to Bake Everything, was easy to make and used all of the ingredients (never thought I’d have to add that qualifier). I made the dough, shaped it into two logs, and chilled it in the freezer (I think “refrigerate” is really a recommendation) before cleaning the ice cream maker and preparing to churn the ice cream base.

My shaped cookie dough

I churned the base! It didn’t go well (predictably).

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I was too sad and stressed once the ice cream had finished churning to remember to take a photo, so here’s what the ice cream looked like at the beginning of churning! It’s basically the same as what it looked like at the end of the churning, minus a few lumps.

Basically, it didn’t “inflate” or become aerated, and I don’t know if this is because my ice cream bowl wasn’t cold enough or if the base wasn’t cold enough, but my guess at the time was that my custard was under-cooked and needed to be put back on the heat.

(My “why not?” philosophy was really the guiding force once I had reached this part of the bake, so since the idea sounded semi-reasonable, I just did it.)

At this point, I had already started shaping the gingersnaps into rounds and baking them.

I pressed the cookies into rough circles before baking them.

So once all of cookies had come out of the oven I dumped the custard into the saucepan and reheated it, and then I cooked it again until it really coated the back of the spoon and I was sure that it couldn’t be not cooked.

Then I strained and chilled and went through the whole process again, all the while cursing the dead thermometer with its strange batteries and the recipe’s lack of pumpkin instruction.

At long last, I re-churned the base, and…it was still not aerated. In fact, it was even soupier this time. I gave up and pushed the bowl into the back corner of my freezer.

The gingersnaps, on the other hand, were delicious. Absolutely fantastic – they had a great snap, a wonderful sweet flavor, and a nice kick from the ginger. I will definitely make those cookies again.

The gingersnaps were AMAZING! 10/10

The ice cream, on the other hand…

Well, it tasted AWESOME! I mean, it was really frozen custard by the time I tried it, but it tasted fantastic. The spices blended beautifully and the pumpkin really shone through. However, the stress totally wasn’t worth it and I really don’t think I’ll make pumpkin ice cream again any time soon.

If anyone has any theories on why the ice cream failed, please let me know!

Adventures in Baking No. 22: Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches!

Adventures in Baking No. 22: Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches!

In my house, there is one dessert so revered that it is the standard by which all other baked goods are measured. It is a level of deliciousness that I constantly strive towards.

What’s the standard? A slice of bakery Birthday Cake.

And yesterday, I baked something that my family rated as the standard’s equal. So thank you, Tessa Arias, for another delicious ice cream sandwich recipe!

I decided to bake Cookies and Cream‘s vanilla ice cream recipe and the chocolate chip cookie recipe, because I wanted to recreate those awesome ice cream sandwiches from a nearby grocery store.

First, I made the vanilla ice cream. The recipe called for a vanilla bean, but since I didn’t have any vanilla beans, I used vanilla bean paste (which made the ice cream look amazing because it gave it a flecked appearance). I mixed together my milk, cream, 1/2 cup of sugar, and vanilla bean paste, then I heated the mixture while I combined my egg yolks and the rest of the sugar. Next, I ladled the hot milk into the eggs while whisking constantly, and then I dumped the eggs into the hot pan with the rest of the milk to finish making the custard. After the temperature reached 175 degrees Fahrenheit, I took the custard off of the heat and strained it into a pre-made ice bath. Finally, I refrigerated the cooled base after it had spent 15 minutes in the ice bath.

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My custard as it cooled in an ice-water bath (which really turned out to be more of a cool-water bath, if I’m honest). Look at all the flecks and the beautiful color! I credit the vanilla bean paste.

Two hours later, I churned my custard in my ice cream maker. Straight out of the bowl, I tried a spoonful, and the ice cream was delicious. I couldn’t savor it, however, because it needed to freeze before I made the sandwiches, so into the freezer it went!

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My churned ice cream!

(I know I say that things are delicious a lot, and that’s because I love dessert, but this vanilla ice cream was truly magnificent. I dislike vanilla ice cream in general (because, honestly, it could have been chocolate ice cream), but I loved this. The vanilla flavor was strong and really came through – definitely better than bland store-bought vanilla ice cream. If you haven’t ever made home-made vanilla ice cream, try it! It’s totally worth the stress of making custard.)

Next, I made the chocolate chip cookies. The recipe was straight-forward and what I expected, except for one little twist: Arias calls for 1 tablespoon of milk. I’ve never made a chocolate chip cookie recipe with milk, so I was excited to see what would happen. (Generally, my chocolate chip cookies use vinegar (thanks, King Arthur Flour!).)

After I finished the dough, I made 18 (ginormous) cookies and pressed them flat with my fingers.

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My cookies right before I popped them into the oven. The uneven ridges are because I stopped pressing them flat with my palm and instead used my fingers. Whoops!

Then I baked the cookies for 10 minutes or so before taking them out of the oven and transferring them to a cooling rack. Once they had cooled, I froze the cookies for an hour so that they would be solid when I assembled the sandwiches.

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My baked cookies – they were huge!

50 minutes later (I was impatient), I laid out my cookies and dolloped ice cream onto each pair to make 9 ice cream sandwiches. Then I wrapped each sandwich in plastic wrap and froze them for another 90 minutes before trying them.

The sandwiches were fabulous. There’s no other word, really. The vanilla ice cream really shone through, and the cookies added a nice bit of buttery crunch. I will definitely make this recipe again, but with one revision: chocolate chips on the edges of the ice cream!


Adventures in Baking No. 20: Blueberry Sorbet!

Adventures in Baking No. 20: Blueberry Sorbet!

Yesterday I made a blueberry sorbet using the simple syrup recipe from The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbet (thanks, local library!) and an improvised amount of blueberry and lemon juice puree. I’ve never had sorbet, so I was excited to see what the difference was between my creation and ice cream!

First, I made the simple syrup, which is the base for many fruit-based sorbets. Basically, you dissolve sugar in water by boiling the mixture and then letting it simmer before allowing the mixture to cool. (I think boiling the water allows for more sugar to dissolve, but don’t quote me on it.) Then I refrigerated my syrup for about an hour.

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My finished simple syrup

Next, I pureed about 4 cups of defrosted blueberries with some water and some lemon juice. This was much harder than it sounds, because the blueberries kept getting stuck under the blender’s blades, preventing the blades from actually pureeing anything. I ended up mashing the berries with a spoon before pouring them back into the blender a little at a time. This whole process took about 30 minutes (way too long for a step that was supposed to consist of chucking fruit in a blender and pushing a button).

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An action shot of my blender difficulties! Oh, the suspense!

Finally, however, I ended up with a blueberry puree that was smooth and reasonably liquid-y. Then I just mixed my puree with the simple syrup and churned the mixture in my ice cream maker. 20 minutes later, I had a sorbet!

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My sorbet at the beginning of the churning process
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My churned sorbet!

The sorbet was a beautiful purple color, with a clean, refreshing blueberry flavor. The texture was icy and smooth – definitely less fatty than an ice cream! I loved the sorbet and I was really happy that my minor improvisation worked! (No, the cookbook did not have a recipe for blueberry sorbet, but it did say that many fruit purees could be added to the simple syrup to successfully make a sorbet. So, I kind of used a recipe?)

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My sorbet, with its beautiful purple (pink? magenta?) color

I will definitely make another sorbet in the future (probably lemon, because I love lemons). For now, I’ll enjoy (and eat) my successful frozen dessert!

Frozen Dessert Differentiation

I think I want to experiment with the differences between gelato, ice cream, and sorbet next week, so I figured I’d create a summary for myself  (as a reference, because I’ll probably forget at some point what the difference is between gelato and ice cream).

As I understand it, ice cream is made with heavy cream, milk, sugar, eggs, and flavorings. Basically, you make a custard, chill it, and then churn it as it cools down and freezes. What the churning process accomplishes is an even distribution of the ice crystals, since the ingredients are cooled down to below the freezing point while moving – this means that your ice cream isn’t just a hunk of ice surrounded by fat and flavors, but a cohesive frozen mixture. Ice cream is generally more airy and more creamy than other frozen treats because of the heavy cream. This is because heavy cream has a higher capacity for storing air (hello, whipped cream!) and because heavy cream has more fat, making for a smoother texture in the ice cream.

On to gelato! Hailing from Italy, this frozen dessert is denser and less fatty than ice cream. This is because it’s made with more milk than heavy cream, while ice cream has more cream than milk. Since milk has less fat than cream, gelato has a different texture resulting from this lack of fat. It’s also denser because cream can hold more air than milk can (have you ever succeeded at creating whipped milk?).

Finally, sorbet! (Or sorbetto, if you’re Italian.) Sorbets are generally fruit-flavored (though you can make chocolate sorbet) and made with sugar, water, and fruit puree. The ice-cream-type appearance is achieved through churning; because the ice crystals are distributed as they freeze, the dessert becomes a sorbet and not a large chunk of ice.

There you have it! If I’m missing any information, please let me know! I hope this is helpful for you; I know it is for me!


Adventures in Baking No. 16: Grasshopper Ice Cream Sandwiches!

Adventures in Baking No. 16: Grasshopper Ice Cream Sandwiches!

Recently I borrowed the cookbook Cookies and Cream by Tessa Arias from my local library. It’s an ice cream sandwich cookbook, and since all of the recipes looked amazing, I decided to try making one!

I chose to bake Arias’ Grasshopper Ice Cream Sandwich recipe because “grasshopper” desserts are composed of chocolate and mint, or in this case, mint ice cream and chocolate cookies. My thought process: “Who doesn’t like mint ice cream and chocolate cookies?”

Side note: why is a green insect synonymous with the chocolate-mint flavor combination? I have absolutely no idea, so if anyone knows the answer, please comment; in the meantime, I’ll research it and hopefully update you later.

First, I made the base, or the custard, for my mint ice cream. I heated my milk, cream, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat until they steamed; then I whisked half (probably more like one-third) of the milk mixture into the egg-yolk mixture in order to temper the eggs. (Tempering the eggs warms them slowly so they don’t scramble.) Next, I just cooked the custard until it coated the back of the spoon and my thermometer registered the base’s temperature as 175 degrees Fahrenheit.

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My finished custard

I immediately strained my custard into my pre-made ice-water bath (I was so proud of myself for preparing that ahead of time, regardless of the fact that the instructions listed it as the first step). Then I stirred the vanilla, mint, and food coloring into the base while it cooled. Once the custard reached room temperature, I refrigerated it for six hours or so before churning the ice cream.

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My ice cream at the beginning of its 30-minute churning session

Finally, I added chopped-up Junior Mints into the ice cream in the last five minutes of churning in the place of chocolate chips!

While the base was refrigerating, I busied myself by baking the chocolate sugar cookies that were the “sandwich” portion of the ice cream sandwich. These cookies were easy drop cookies; I basically made the dough, rolled it into balls, rolled the balls in sugar, and then pressed each cookie ball down with a glass (to make the cookies flat). Afterwards, I just baked the cookies and, once they were cool, froze them so that they held up when sandwiched with ice cream.

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My baked chocolate sugar cookies – you can see the indent from the bottom of the glass that I used to flatten them. Whoops!

After both the cookies and the ice cream had enough time to freeze, I made nine ice cream sandwiches by scooping ice cream onto a cookie and…pressing down with the other cookie! A simple yet effective technique!

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Before we scooped the ice cream and made the sandwiches, we laid out the plastic wrap and the sugar cookies to minimize the amount of time the ice cream spent out of the freezer

My sister and I also added chocolate chips to the edges of most of the sandwiches; however, some of them began to melt a little too quickly for our comfort and so some sandwiches went into the freezer without their mini chocolate chips.

When we finally tasted our sandwiches, they were delicious! The cookies were soft and almost cake-like in texture, with a wonderful melt-in-the-mouth feel and a good chocolate flavor. The ice cream was tasty, creamy, and definitely minty.

Therein lies, sadly, my one issue with this recipe: it tasted just a little too minty. The recipe called for 1 teaspoon of pure peppermint (in my case, pure mint) extract, which I thought sounded like a large amount. I generally add only half a teaspoon to most baked goods because of various toothpaste-mint incidents (stories for another time that, suffice to say, have made me wary of adding large amounts of mint extract, lest my baked goods taste like toothpaste). Unfortunately, my instincts here were right – 1 teaspoon was definitely too much. The mint taste was just a touch too strong and had a hint of artificiality. This recipe was definitely tasty enough to make again, however, and so the next time I make it I think I’ll infuse the cream with fresh mint to avoid an artificial taste. I wholeheartedly recommend this cookbook and this recipe though – Tessa Arias has created some amazing flavor combinations!


Baking Chronicle No. 9: Ice Cream!

Baking Chronicle No. 9: Ice Cream!

After my two-week hiatus from posting (one week of which I spent in England and one week of which I spent watching television), I’m back with a fabulous triumph: the Salted Caramel Ice Cream recipe I made on Friday!

Ice cream making is hard. I’ve made ice cream maybe five or six times, and it’s only worked once (excluding this occasion). However, I finally figured out what I’ve been doing wrong – I’ve been under-cooking the custard!

Custard? What?

Yes, my friends. Ice cream is made with only a few simple ingredients: cream, milk, egg yolks, sugar, and whatever flavoring you decide to add (salt and vanilla, chocolate, or salted caramel, or whatever tickles your fancy). These ingredients are extremely similar to those used to make custard, and the process is also familiar. The cream is heated and then a fraction of it is added to the egg yolks and sugar to temper them before all of the ingredients are combined and cooked over a low heat for a period of time (5 – 10 minutes) until the custard coats the back of the spoon.

Since I recently learned how to make custard, I was confident that I could successfully make an ice cream that inflated and became ice cream rather than flavored soup with the help of my sister and two good friends.

First, we made the salted caramel by melting sugar over the heat, stirring frequently, and praying that it wouldn’t become a burned, hardened mess. Then we added the cream (wearing oven mitts, because adding the cream to the caramel results in hot bubbles and splashes) and heated the caramel some more because the cold cream turned the caramel from a liquid to a solid mass. (I’ll admit it: this was my fault, as I decided for some unfathomable reason that the temperature difference between lukewarm cream and refrigerated cream was minimal.)

Next, we mixed together the egg yolks and some sugar before adding about 1 cup of the hot cream mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly so the eggs wouldn’t scramble (or curdle, as the baking lingo flies). After adding the eggs back into the saucepan, we cooked the mixture until it coated the back of the spoon and held a clear path when some brave soul dragged their finger through the custard.

The custard was then placed into an ice-water bath, which didn’t overflow (it seems like a simple thing to prevent, but it’s really not) because my sister is a genius, before placing the base (the ice cream making term for the custard) into the refrigerator for two hours.

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My sister’s ingenious ice-water bath for the finished custard

Finally, I was able to breathe easily, because the worst was over. Once the custard is made, ice cream making is smooth sailing: you just refrigerate the base, churn it in an ice cream maker, and let the ice cream solidify in the freezer.

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The ice cream at the start of churning (the finished ice cream is the feature photo at the top)

And that’s what we did! We refrigerated, then churned for 35 minutes, and then froze the ice cream for an hour while watching The Mummy (the original, because it’s fabulous). The amount of ice cream the recipe made was the perfect amount – 1 quart is just enough for four ice cream sundaes! The ice cream was delicious. The sweetness of the caramel was enhanced by the salty flavor, and the texture was so smooth and amazing! My first ice-cream making success!