Dried Apricot and Pistachio Ice Cream

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So, apparently, the Super Bowl is happening in New York tomorrow. Yeah, that’s how much Steve and I follow football. To our defense, the Super Bowl is technically in New Jersey, not in New York city. But honestly, it could be two blocks away and we still wouldn’t know who’s playing in it. I saw the team names by accident today, while reading an article in the Styles section of the New York Times, so I blurted them out at lunch with a friend, making it seem like I always knew it was the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks (see how I did that?). They both looked at me with a look that said Who are you? so I told them the truth.

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More pressing around here has been the weather. Days and days of below freezing temperatures have made even me, an avid winter lover, complain about the cold. You know it’s getting too cold when the East River fills with big, flat chunks of ice, floating down from upstate New York like mini icebergs, creating delays for the ferry. When you’re on a rickety old ferry boat, floating over a river that is so cold it freezes, the sound of thumps and scraping noises that it makes as it passes over sheets of ice can be very disconcerting.

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So, it might seem strange that I am posting an ice cream recipe today but it’s really a way to cheat and give yourself a taste of summer. No fresh fruit around? No problem. Ice cream genius David Lebovitz has the solution. Take some dried apricots and reconstitute them with the help of some sweet wine and blend them into an ice cream. Given what’s around this time of hear, it’s really the best you can do.

Oh, and enjoy the Super Bowl. Go <insert you favorite team name here>!!

Dried Apricot and Pistachio Ice Cream – Slightly adapted from Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments

Makes about 3 cups (750 ml)

Ingredients:

5 oz (140 g) dried apricots, quartered
3/4 cup (180 ml) sweet white wine (or dry white wine with 1 tablespoon of sugar blended in)
1/2 cup (70 g) shelled pistachio nuts (preferably unsalted)
2/3 cup (130 g) sugar
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions:

In a small saucepan, warm the apricot pieces with the wine. Simmer for 5 minutes, cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 1 hour. Meanwhile, coarsely chop the pistachios.

Purée the apricots with the wine in a blender along with the sugar, milk, cream, and lemon juice until smooth.

Chill the mixture in the refrigerator and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. During the last minute of churning, add the chopped pistachio nuts, or layer them as you scoop the ice cream into the container where you will keep it.

Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

I am very loyal to chocolate. My love for it is endless and my devotion to it is deep. When going over a dessert menu, I will always gravitate first to the choices that include chocolate. I love dark chocolate, mysterious and a little dangerous, but I also love milk chocolate, sharply sweet and creamy. On occasion, I’ll even enjoy white chocolate, the chocolate impostor.

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There was only one time when my feelings for chocolate almost changed. I signed up for a 5-day, 30-hour course of chocolate making at the Institute of Culinary Education. It meant that every day for five consecutive days, from 9am to 4pm (with a 1-hour lunch break), I was in a kitchen making different kinds of chocolates. The first couple of days it was pure heaven. The third day it started to change. We all noticed that we avoided licking our fingers. By the fourth and fifth day, I started to feel an actual aversion to the smell and taste of chocolate. It was a little disturbing. Fortunately, after a couple of weeks of no chocolate in sight, my feelings for it returned.

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But despite my undying loyalty to chocolate, there is one dessert for which I am always ready to change teams: key lime pie. If it’s on the menu, I don’t care what decadent chocolate concoctions are available, I will choose the pie. The sweet and tangy custard paired with the buttery graham cracker crust are a combination that is so perfect, so enticing, that I simply find it irresistible.

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So the other day I saw some key limes at the grocery store and I had an idea: how about a key lime pie ice cream? I figured it shouldn’t be too hard to create the recipe, since the pie is already a custard. I just had to adjust the quantities and make it a little runnier than it is for the pie. So, I created a first draft of the recipe and I figured that it would need adjustments before I could post it.

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But 24 hours after I churned the ice cream, I took the container out of the freezer and dug in with the ice cream scoop. I couldn’t believe it when the scoop just effortlessly slid through the ice cream. It was a perfect consistency, immediately scoopable (even days later, it was still the consistency of gelato). And the taste? Exactly what I was going for: key lime pie, pure and simple.

Let’s just say that the chocolate ice cream I’ve had in the freezer has been feeling a little ignored for a while.

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Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

For crust:
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon graham cracker crumbs (from 5 crackers; you can put them in a ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to crush them into crackers)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For ice cream:
1 can (14oz sweetened condensed milk)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice (or regular lime juice)
4 large egg yolks

First make the crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix, using a fork, graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Add melted butter and mix with fork until well combined. Press mixture evenly on bottom only (not up to the sides) of 8 inch square glass pan or 9 inch glass pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Break into small bite size pieces. Can be made the day before. Just store in airtight container until ready to use.

Make the ice cream:
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the key lime juice. Place a mesh strainer on top of a medium bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, add sweetened condensed milk, cream, sugar, and pinch of salt. Heat, stirring frequently, over medium heat until combined and bubbles start to form.

Temper the egg yolks by slowly pouring about 1/3 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks, while whisking constantly. Scrape the tempered egg yolk mixture into the saucepan, again whisking constantly. You’ll notice that the mixture will immediately become thicker. Continue to cook over medium heat for another 4 minutes, stirring constantly with a spatula and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan.

Pour the mixture through the mesh strainer into the medium bowl. Let cool completely and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Churn the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When it’s finished churning, layer it in a container with the graham cracker crust bits. Start with about one fifth of the ice cream at the bottom of the container. Sprinkle about one fifth of the crust bits. Layer another fifth of the ice cream, followed by another fifth of the crust bits. Continue this way until you finish with the last crust bits on top.

 

Ispahan Ice Cream (Rose, Raspberry, and Lychee)

This week Steve and I went to the New York City Marriage Bureau to get our marriage license. The city has created a new space in the City Clerk’s building for this purpose, which includes two chapels where couples can get married on the spot. The new marriage bureau is beautiful, with gold crown moulding, marble walls, and gilded light fixtures. It is worlds away from the old room they used as the marriage bureau, where six years ago we went to register as domestic partners .

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On that day back in 2007, we were both excited when we arrived and we approached the bored woman behind the information desk. “What are you here for?” she barked at us without looking up. “We’d like to register as domestic partners!” we both exclaimed, smiles from ear to ear. It had been about 2 years since we’d met and this was a big deal. Same-sex marriage was not yet legal in New York state, and in any case, we weren’t at that point yet. The woman thrust a form at us, told us to to fill it out and go to window 2.

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We filled out the form  right there, in a windowless room, surrounded by walls of peeling paint, harsh fluorescent lighting, and old half-broken chairs. At window 2, a young man in his 20s, wearing a baseball hat backwards, let us through the motions of answering some questions and signing the required documents. When we were finished, there was no congratulations or any other acknowledgement. We needed to get up and let him move on to the next couple.

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Despite the decidedly unromantic circumstances and environment, we were elated. We stepped out into the sunny New York day and we walked half way up the Brooklyn Bridge to celebrate. We took a selfie with one of our cellphones, that we never properly saved and promptly lost.

Things were a little different this time. The beautiful room of the new marriage bureau felt celebratory. People who worked there were polite and attentive. There were many couples waiting their turn, sitting on the green couches that the city provided. Others took pictures in front of the large wall-sized photograph of City Hall. Everyone looked happy and excited. About half the couples we saw were same-sex. And we were there to get a marriage license, for our wedding, which would be legal and real in every sense of the word.

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So, with weddings on my mind, today I give you a recipe for an ice cream that screams wedding. It’s inspired by ispahan, an amazing dessert created by Pierre Hermé in Paris that includes rosewater cream, raspberries, and lychees, sandwiched between two rose macarons. The first time I had it a Ladurée in Paris I was amazed. The combination of the floral rose with the slightly tart raspberries and sweet lychee, offset by the crunch of the macarons, was ethereal.

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I decided that I wanted to recreate the experience in an ice cream. The result is the recipe you see here. It’s a little longer than usual because you have to make the two fruit syrups first, but they are easy to make. You can eat the ice cream on it’s own, but to truly get the ispahan experience, I would recommend serving it in meringue nests for that added crunch.

Ispahan Ice Cream (Rose, Raspberry, and Lychee)

For raspberry syrup:
1 cup raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kirsch

For lychee syrup:
1 cup peeled, pitted lychees (from about 14-16 lychee nuts), chopped into to small pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kirsch

For rose ice cream:
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons rose water

First make the raspberry syrup:
In a small saucepan, combine raspberries, sugar, and kirsch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring continuously for about 6-8 minutes. The syrup should thicken a little. Let it cool a little and then force through a fine meshed sieve to remove the seeds. Take about a teaspoon of the seeds and add them to the strained syrup. Cool completely and chill in the fridge. Can be made several days ahead and kept refrigerated. This makes almost double the amount you will probably need for the ice cream.

Make the lychee syrup:
In a small saucepan, combine chopped lychee, sugar, and kirsch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring continuously for about 8-10 minutes. The syrup should thicken very slightly . Let it cool a little and then force through a fine meshed sieve. Cool completely and chill in the fridge. Can be made several days ahead and kept refrigerated. This makes almost double the amount you will probably need for the ice cream.

Make the rose ice cream and combine with syrups:
In a small bowl or a 2-cup measuring cup, stir together the cornstarch and heavy cream using a fork, making sure there are no lumps. Place the milk and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring so that the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and stir in the heavy cream mixture. Return the pan to the stove and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. It should coat the back of the spatula or spoon. Taste the mixture: make sure it does not have any floury taste, if it does, continue to simmer it until the cornstarch is cooked.

Remove from the heat and add the rose water. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then churn in your ice cream maker according to your manufacturer’s directions. Place about a quarter of the churned ice cream in the container you will use to store it in. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of the raspberry syrup and 2 tablespoons of the lychee syrup over it. Repeat the process four times, layering the ice cream and syrups in the container.

Orange Blossom Ice Cream with Pistachios

Memory is a funny thing. The older I get, the more unpredictable it becomes. On the one hand, I have a hard time remembering what I ate yesterday for lunch or what was the plot of the book I just finished reading two nights ago. On the other hand, random memories will be pop up, seemingly for the first time, out of nowhere. The float to consciousness like bubbles from the dark, deep corners of my mind.

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Often, these memories are triggered by a smell or a taste. I am well aware that our sense of smell is tightly linked to our memory function, but still, every time it happens, I marvel at the ability of a group of molecules that reach my nose or tongue to evoke such strong emotional recollections.

The first time I made this orange blossom ice cream, I had exactly this kind of experience. I had just finished cooking the custard base and I added the three tablespoons of orange blossom water that the recipe called for. Since the custard was steaming hot, the smell wafted up to my nose. The memory it triggered was of all the times that my mom made us a simple custard, flavored with orange blossom water (called anthonero), to have as dessert.

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I hadn’t thought of that custard in decades. And yet, as soon as I remembered it, as soon as I smelled it in the bowl and tasted it on the spoon, I had a clear recollection of how it tasted of spring, how its creamy consistency coated our mouths, and how my sister and I always ignored my mom’s warnings to wait until it cooled down to eat it.

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I knew that this recipe would be amazing, even before I chilled the custard in the fridge and froze it in the ice cream maker. I’ve made it many times since then and at some point I decided to add chopped pistachios for a taste and texture contrast, which turned out to be a fantastic idea.

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This is a very easy ice cream to make. It uses cornstarch to thicken cream and milk into a quick custard. The trick is to make sure there are no cornstarch lumps and to cook it just enough time that it thickens and you can’t taste the “floury” cornstarch anymore. And if you are like me, the toughest part is to try not to eat it hot out of the pan, instead of chilling it and turning it into ice cream.

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Orange Blossom Ice Cream with Pistachios

1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons orange blossom water
1/3 cup shelled pistachios, chopped

In a small bowl or a 2-cup measuring cup, stir together the cornstarch and heavy cream using a fork, making sure there are no lumps. Place the milk and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring so that the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and stir in the heavy cream mixture. Return the pan to the stove and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. It should coat the back of the spatula or spoon. Taste the mixture: make sure it does not have any floury taste, if it does, continue to simmer it until the cornstarch is cooked.

Remove from the heat and add the orange blossom water. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then churn in your ice cream maker according to your manufacturer’s directions.

Add the chopped pistachios towards the end of the churning or layer them into the ice cream as you spoon it into its container from the ice cream maker.

Quick Dairy-Free Coconut Saffron Ice Cream

Last week, I cooked a three course dinner that was both gluten-free and dairy-free because one of our friends who joined us is allergic to both. Given those constraints, I started thinking about what to make for this dinner a few weeks in advance. I quickly realized that cooking gluten-free and dairy-free is manageable for savory dishes but when you get to dessert, it becomes a serious challenge.

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A challenge I absolutely loved (Top Chef here I come!). Once I decided on the appetizer (pea soup) and the main dish (roast chicken with potatoes and carrots), I started to go over my recipes for desserts. I didn’t want to go the easy way by making a fruit sorbet and call it a day. I wanted to make a dessert that screamed gluten and dairy but without having either of them.

So I chose to make bread pudding, served with ice cream. Yep, I went there.

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For the bread pudding, I used my go-to recipe (which I’ll share soon) and substituted regular bread for gluten-free croutons that I bought. I also replaced whole milk with coconut milk. The end result was delicious. The ice cream, however, was more of a challenge. I decided to stick with the coconut theme and I found a recipe by David Lebovitz for a quick coconut saffron ice cream that seemed promising. However, it used heavy cream. So, I decided to replace heavy cream with cream of coconut, which is really coconut milk with lots of sugar and a few thickeners (different types of gum) that turn it into a thick, sweet concoction that’s the basic ingredient in Pina Coladas.

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So, I opened a can of coconut milk and a can of cream of coconut, dumped them in a pot, and heated them gently until all the solids melted and it became a smooth liquid. I added a pinch of salt and a bigger pinch of saffron, heated it a little longer to let the saffron steep, chilled it in the fridge, and froze it in my ice cream maker.

I was skeptical on what the final product would be like, especially in terms of consistency. I expected a solid block on ice when I took it out of the freezer the next day. I was amazed when it turned out to be a beautiful, creamy ice cream that you could scoop with a spoon. The saffron had given it a golden yellow color that intensified the illusion that this ice cream was made with actual cream and egg yolks.

The final verdict on the whole dessert? Let’s just say that not a crumb of bread pudding or drop of ice cream was left over in everyone’s bowls.

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Quick Dairy-Free Coconut Saffron Ice Cream

If you don’t have saffron, or if you don’t like it, you can omit it. Though I haven’t tried them, other options for additions are lime zest, chopped dried pineapple or ginger, or chocolate pieces. For all of these alternative options, add them to the ice cream right when it’s finished being churned in the ice cream maker.

1 15oz can of coconut milk, unsweetened
1 15oz can of cream of coconut (such as Goya or Coco Lopez)
pinch of salt
hefty pinch of saffron threads (about half a teaspoon)

In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut milk and the cream of coconut. The cream of coconut is usually separated in the can, with the solid cream on top and the liquid syrup in the bottom. Add the entire contents of the can to the saucepan.

Heat gently over medium heat, stirring frequently until the cream of coconut solids melt and everything becomes a smooth liquid.

Add the salt and saffron and continue to heat gently for 2-3 minutes. The longer you steep the saffron, the deeper the saffron taste of your ice cream will be.

Remove from heat and chill in the refrigerator. Once the mixture is chilled, freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Ice Cream Maker

So  you know the story where you have a boyfriend who’s really nice, uncomplicated, reliable, and brings you simple joy and happiness but then you meet this other guy who seems to have more of everything – he has “initiative” (he’s started several companies that have failed but he’s trying, any day now), a great body, and promises of a lifetime of amazing adventure, so you dump your simpler boyfriend for this better one, only to realize after a few months that he’s no better at all, really he’s all show and no substance and none of his promises have or will ever be kept, so you go back to your nice first boyfriend who takes you back and everything is good with the world again? You know that story?

Well, it happened to me, except instead of with boyfriends, it happened to me with ice cream makers.

Ok, let’s get one thing straight. There will be several ice cream recipes in this blog. And if you are one of those people (like I used to be) who are completely dumbfounded by the phrase “freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions” at the end of recipe, then here is the solution: buy an ice cream maker. It’s really, really simple. And cheap.

Back to the story. When I first started making ice creams and sorbets, I bought this simple ice cream maker,the Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker.
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IMG_2199I’m not even giving you the link to this one because I don’t want to encourage you to buy it. It was expensive (almost $300) but it had the one thing my old one didn’t: a compressor. So I didn’t have to keep a bowl in the freezer and I could make a batch of ice cream whenever I wanted. Plus I could make two batches back to back if I wanted since the compressor would keep the bowl cold.

I think you see where this is going. My original, simpler ice cream maker was quiet, fast (ice cream was ready in about 20 minutes), cheap ($50 on Amazon), and made smooth, delicious ice cream and sorbet (speed is important in ice cream making, in order to avoid crystals forming in it, which make it icy). But I threw it away for this monster that ended up being heavy, expensive, really loud, slow (45 minutes or more for ice cream), and almost never made a good batch of ice cream.

So, I went back to Amazon and bought another one of my original ice cream maker and put the other one in a closet, until I give it away.

And as far as saving space in my freezer? Well, the bowl, being a bowl, is empty inside. So, I put things in it to minimize the space wasted. Like, for example, bread cubes I save from leftover homemade bread, which I use to make bread pudding (recipe to come).

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Malted Milk Ice Cream

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There are some things that I like to say I have a problem with. One of them is chocolate. I have a problem with chocolate. As in, once I take a bite of chocolate I am consumed by an uncontrollable, insane desire to keep eating it. It’s a problem. Really.

I also have a problem with malt. Or more precisely, malted milk powder. You know, the stuff that’s inside Maltesers  (if you’re European) or the extremely inferior Whoppers (if you’re American). My problem gets even worse because malted milk powder is often combined with chocolate (see Maltesers and Whoppers above).One bite can drive me into a kind of Zombie-like, straight-out-of-the-walking-dead behavior.

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So when I saw the recipe for Malted Milk Ice Cream in David Lebovitz’s amazing book “The Perfect Scoop,” I knew I had to make it. And I did. And it was good. Really, really good. So good, I’ve made it more than a dozen times ever since.

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So here it is. But if you make it and can’t stop eating it, I will not be held responsible.

Malted Milk Ice Cream – Adapted from “The Perfect Scoop” by David Lebovitz
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts (1 1/2 liters)

2 1/2 cups (625 ml) heavy cream
1/2 cup (125 ml) whole milk
pinch of salt
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup (90 g) malted milk powder*
6 large egg yolks
2 cups (350 g) malted milk balls, coarsely chopped**

* I buy mine online from King Arthur Flour
** Maltesers are the best here but if you can’t find them, you can use Whoppers

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of the heavy cream, the vanilla, and the malted milk powder. Set a mesh strainer over the bowl and set aside.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, warm the milk and the remaining 1/2 cup of the heavy cream along with the sugar and salt, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture in the egg yolks while whisking constantly. Pour the whole thing back into the saucepan and stir it constantly over medium heat until it thickens and coats the back of the spatula. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the saucepan as you stir.

Pour the mixture over the mesh strainer into the bowl with the cream and malt. Stir to combine. Cool the mixture by either putting the large bowl in an ice bath and stirring or by putting in the fridge.

Once the mixture is chilled, freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. As you take the ice cream out of the machine, fold in the chopped malted milk balls.