Chamomile Honey Coconut Ice Cream

Honey, coconut milk, chamomile flowers, eggs. Such a simple list. It’s a rainy Sunday and I’m finishing up writing my final paper and presentation for cooking school. On Tuesday I will do a 45-minute cooking demonstration – we’ve each chosen a health topic to focus on, and mine is post-partum nutrition. I’ve learned all about the kinds of meals (soups, broths, meals full of vitamins, protein, omega-3s) that a new mom would need, and yet I feel like throwing in one ice cream recipe into my final project. Chamomile is great for babies – in fact, in some Mediterranean countries, newborChamomilens are fed cooled chamomile tea shortly after birth to calm them.

I found this recipe through the Big Sur Bakery, a favorite destination restaurant on Hwy 1 in Big Sur. When I’ve been there, its usually damp, dark weather with magical mists filtering through redwood trees. So, on this rainy day, a healthy, comforting ice cream recipe from Big Sur seems appropriate.

Chamomile Honey Coconut Ice Cream:
Adapted from the Big Sur Bakery

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans organic coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup chamomile flowers
  • 4 egg yolks
  • Optional addition: sliced pears or peaches with a sprinkle of sugar or coconut sugar on them!

Procedure:

  1. Combine coconut milk and honey in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove pan from the heat, add chamomile flowers, and steep for 10 minutes.
  2. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Discard the chamomile. Return the strained mixture to the saucepan.
  3. Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl until smooth. Bring coconut milk mixture back to a boil, and slowly ladle the hot liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over very low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.
  4. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve one more time, and refrigerate until cold. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  5. About 10 minutes before serving, slice the pears and put them into small bowls for serving. Sprinkle with coconut sugar and let them macerate. Serve ice cream on top of pears.

Yields: 1 quart

Simple Honey Ice Cream

SnapseedHoney… kind of like magic. It’s anti-septic, antioxidant, full of vitamin B6, and can heal wounds. I attempted to keep bees this summer. I set up a hive in the backyard and learned all about the fantastical life of a bee colony. But when I went on a trip for 2 weeks, the hive was invaded by ants and the bees left my backyard. So, I’ll try again next spring to keep bees, learn their mysterious habits, and harvest my own honey. For now, buying local honey is my way of supporting small beekeepers amidst the troubling bee crisis happening globally. And then turning my honey into ice cream is just a good idea. It’s light and tart and sweet all at once.

And now, for a small announcement. I’m in cooking school! I’m doing a part-time natural chef program focused on nutrition. We use ingredients that are seasonal, organic, unrefined, and local.  I’m perfecting my knife grip, learning which vegetables have which vitamins,  and creating healthier alternatives to classic recipes (today I made ranch dressing with no dairy using cashews). So, that brings me to ice cream.  I’m going to create some recipes without refined sugar, using natural sweeteners, but still embracing the goodness of fats (i.e. delicious, organic cream). Here’s my first one, using a raw, local honey I bought in Berkeley.

Simple Honey Ice Cream: (makes about 1 pint)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

1) Prepare an ice bath and have a glass or non-reactive metal bowl nearby.IMG_4113

2) Add cream, milk, and honey to a saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently while bringing to a simmer. Once honey is dissolved and mixture starts to simmer, remove from heat. Stir in a pinch of salt.

2) Pour hot mixture into bowl and then place bowl in ice bath. Stir every few minutes while cooling.

3) When mixture is cooled to room temperature, pour into ice cream machine. (Or, if you have more time, refrigerate the mixture for an hour before pouring into ice cream machine). Once the machine is mixing, add the vanilla.

4) When the ice cream is fluffy and thick, remove and place into containers. Freeze for an hour or two before serving.

Note: One good thing I’ve learned is to freeze my glass pint jars (with the lids off) before scooping ice cream into them. I generally do this once I start my ice cream machine, to give them about 20 minutes to cool off.IMG_4133(1)

Papaya Lime Sorbet

photo(42)My friend Liz got married last week in the Eastern Sierras. Before heading to the mountains, a group of twelve of us got together for her bachelorette party in Oakland. We mixed, tasted, and voted on potential wedding cocktail recipes and ate a massive amount of take-out Thai food. For dessert I brought papaya lime sorbet, which went well with Thai, and we added a splash of Malibu rum to each serving. Yum! I could photograph this sorbet all day, it’s so colorful.

IMG_3793Here’s the recipe, from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. I upped the lime juice here, which I recommend.

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Papaya Lime Sorbet: (makes about 1.5 pints)

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs papayas (about 2-3 small papayas)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 3-4 limes)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

1) Cut the papayas in half and remove seeds with a spoon. Scoop out remaining fruit into a blender.

2) Add all remaining ingredients to blender, then puree until smooth.

3) Freeze the sorbet mixture in ice cream machine, then place in freezer for 1-2 hours before serving.

Pair with Malibu rum or another dark rum, by adding one shot glass full onto a scoop of sorbet.photo(43)

Orange Olive Oil Cake

photo (13)I often choose recipes based on what’s in my pantry and how little time I have to bake. Yesterday there was no baking chocolate in my house and no cream for ice cream making. I had: an hour, olive oil, oranges, and milk!

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Flipping through the Modern Baker, which a friend gave me a few years ago, I found this recipe. I don’t usually trust baking without butter, but I wanted to make a simple cake to bring to a friend’s house for dinner. This fit the bill – quick with easy ingredients. The cake turned out to be delicious, flavorful, and light. The best part is that this makes two cakes, so I left one at home to give to our construction worker team the next day (they are doing some serious demolition right now to transform a closet into a bathroom). They gave me smiles and thumbs up after tasting the cake this morning.

I recommend serving this cake with homemade creme fraiche ice cream (yep, just said that, it was an obnoxious sentence to write, but true). I will share that recipe soon. Or vanilla! Vanilla from the corner store does the trick.

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Orange Olive Oil Cake, from the Modern Baker (makes 2 cakes)

You’ll need TWO 9-inch (22.5 cm) round baking pans, about 2 inches deep. And these ingredients:

  • 3 navel oranges
  • 3 large eggsphoto (14)
  • 2 1/2  cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, set the rack in the middle of the oven, and line your two baking pans with disks of parchment paper cut to fit.

2) Grate the zest from the oranges and place zest into a large mixing bowl.

3) Add the eggs to the zest and mix well. Add 1 cup of sugar and whisk about 1 minute. Whisk in the oil, then the milk.

4) In a different bowl, stir together 1.5 cups of sugar, flour, baking soda, powder, and salt. Whisk the dry mixture into the egg mixture in 3-4 separate additions, whisking to completely mix after each addition.

5) Divide the batter equally into the two pans and bake.

6) Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, about 50 minutes.

7) While the cakes are baking, cut the remaining oranges – use a knife to remove the skin and white pith, and cut the fruit into slivers. Refrigerate and cover until you’re ready to serve.

8) Cool the cakes on racks for 5 minutes. Turn upside down onto a plate, very gently remove the paper if you’d like, flip back over onto a plate, and serve with orange slices and ice cream.

Storage note: you can wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and keep them at room temperature for up to 24 hours. Or freeze them for up to a month and defrost to room temperature before serving.

p.s. I’ve been trying out more recipes in this book, and I really appreciate Nick’s writing. His recipes are always clearly written – he makes complicated baking techniques seem simple. I love his welsh scone recipe, too. Have you tried his recipes? Which ones do you recommend?

The best vanillas: a matchup

IMG_2181 My go-to ice cream cookbooks so far are from Bi-Rite creamery and Jeni’s. So, to compare them and decide my favorite, I thought it was time for a vanilla matchup. Which ice cream would be better in a blind tasting – the beloved San Francisco creamery or the young Ohio newcomer? Can you guess which is which in the photo? The base recipes are completely different. Bi-Rite uses eggs while Jeni’s uses cream cheese for that extra fat boost (fat is a key part of ice cream, since it helps the sugar and cream to bind and be creamy, not icy). Here’s a nice article about Jeni’s.

I had a few friends over for the  vanilla taste-off, and no one agreed on a favorite. In the photo here, Bi-Rite vanilla is on the left (the yellower scoop, made with eggs) and Jeni’s recipe is on the right, made with cream cheese. Ming said that Bi-Rite “tasted expensive and special.” Greg thought Jeni’s tasted lighter and fluffier. I think Jeni’s has a more tart, crisp flavor.

The results:

Bi-Rite: rich, creamy, expensive-tasting.

Jeni’s: tart, crisp, creamy, light.

My choice: Jeni’s. Ohio ice cream beats out the San Francisco favorite. And using cream cheese instead of eggs is much simpler and less messy when cooking.

And now, the recipes:

Bi-Rite Vanilla Ice Cream: (from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones)

  • 1 and 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 5 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1) Infuse the flavors. In a heavy, nonstick saucepan, stir together the cream, milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and salt. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and use a knife to scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the bean to the pan and put it over medium-high heat.

2) When the mixture begins to simmer, remove from the heat, cover, and steep for 30 minutes.

3) Make the base: In a heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks just to break them up, then whisk in remaining 1/4 cup sugar until smooth.

4) Uncover the cream mixture, move it onto medium-high heat, and when it starts simmering, reduce the heat to medium.

5) Carefully scoop a 1/2 cup of the hot cream while whisking the eggs constantly, and add the cream to the eggs. Repeat adding another 1/2 cup hot cream to the bowl of eggs. Using a heatproof spatula, stir the remaining cream in the pan as you slowly pour the egg/cream mix back from the bowl into the pan.

6) Cook this mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring the entire time. When it is thickened, 1-2 minutes later, it will coat the back of your spatula or wooden spoon and if you run your finger across the spoon it will create a clear path that holds. Remove from heat.

7) Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container. (I use a cheese cloth or fine metal strainer for this). Set the container into an ice-water bath and stir with a clean spatula until the base is cool. Cover and refrigerate the base for at least 2 hours or overnight.

8) Remove the bean and add the vanilla extract to the base and stir. Spin in your ice cream machine for about 20 minutes, or until the ice cream is fluffy and thick, and then freeze for at least 4 hours.

Jeni’s Vanilla Ice Cream

Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream (sshhh, it’s vegan)

IMG_2111Chocolatey, coconutey, vegan, delicious. This ice cream is surprisingly creamy and smooth and it’s perfect for my non-dairy-eating friends. It’s from the beautiful Bi-Rite cookbook, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, which I really love, but their usual dairy ice cream base involves lots of egg yolks. To switch things up, I tried this no-egg, no-dairy recipe using coconut cream (you can also use coconut milk), and it’s excellent yet very simple and quick to make. It’s inspiring me to want to try all kinds of non-dairy recipes – using banana puree or coconut milk or nut butters, there are a variety of ways to create creamy cold treats without milk or cream.

Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream:

  • 2 cans (13.5 oz) coconut milk (or coconut cream, which I found at Trader Joe’s)IMG_2121
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 oz (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, measured then sifted)
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1) Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
Transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

2) Freeze the ice cream using an ice cream machine, until its lighter and fluffy, about 20-25 minutes. Then pour into an airtight container and cover with parchment paper to reduce air exposure. Place in your freezer and, after a few hours, enjoy.IMG_2103

French Toast Ice Cream

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Breakfast is my favorite meal. On any given morning growing up in L.A. I could be found swinging my legs from a high wood chair behind our white tiled kitchen counters, sun streaming into the room from the backyard while  I slurped leftover milk with treasured last mushy bits of cereal like Cherrios or Life. Sometimes, rarely, my dad made scrambled eggs. His eggs were better than anyone else’s, which was mysterious to me until I recently realized his trick. He’d let the butter sizzle and brown in the pan first before pouring the eggs into the pan, giving the scramble a toasted, butter fried scent. Now when that smell of browning butter fills my kitchen, I notice that it lasts for hours, reminding me of scrambled eggs on a yellow plate eaten quickly before school.

When I was brainstorming ice cream flavors recently with my friend Dave, we came up with a whole category of potential breakfast-inspired desserts. Granola ice cream, honey nut cherrios ice cream, why not? What if I could capture that brown butter scent and all the goodness of milky sweet crunch in one bowl? So, I bring you my first attempt to marry breakfast comfort and ice cream… French toast ice cream! This is first very own original recipe. Greg says it tastes like milk left in the bowl after eating cinnamon toast crunch, and I take that as a compliment.

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French Toast Ice Cream: (makes 1 quart)

For the french toast:

    • 2-3 thick slices of good french toast bread – challah or cinnamon bread (I used Semifreddi’s cinnamon challah)
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/4 tsp vanilla
    • 1 tbsp butter

For the ice cream base:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese (let it soften for 15 minutes in a large bowl)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1  1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanillaIMG_2053

1) Make french toast! In a bowl, whisk 2 eggs with 1/4 tsp vanilla and a sprinkle of cinnamon (unless you’ve bought cinnamon bread). Cut 2-3 thick slices of the bread. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat and allow it to brown a little.

Dip a slice of bread into the egg mixture and thoroughly coat the bread all over with egg.  Place the slice into the pan and cook each side for about 1 minute, or until its browned and ready to turn. Repeat with each slice of bread.

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2) Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl – I like to mash it up with a fork.

3) Put the cream cheese into a large bowl (glass or metal) and once it softens a little, whisk in the salt.

4) Combine the remaining ingredients (milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup) in a large pot and bring to a boil while stirring gently. Allow the mixture to boil for 3-

4 minutes, then lower the heat and add in the cornstarch mixture. Boil for about 1-2 more minutes, or until the cream base is thick (when you dip a spoon into it, the base should be thick on the back of the spoon so that you can draw a line in it with your finger).

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5) Slowly pour a little of the hot cream into the bowl of  cream cheese and whisk gently. When the cream cheese is very smooth and not lumpy, continue adding the rest of the hot cream base while whisking. Add the cinnamon and mix it in. Now, place the french toast slices into the bowl of hot cream and let them steep in the cream. Place this bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice water. Stir the mixture gently every 5 minutes to keep it smooth, and add more ice to the ice bath if necessary. Wait about 30 minutes until the mixture cools.

6) Remove the french toast slices, squeezing them a little to remove the cream. Place them on a cutting board and dice them into small, tiny bite-size pieces. Set aside.

6) Freeze the ice cream using an ice cream machine, until its lighter and fluffy, about 20-25 minutes. Just before finishing, add the french toast bites and let them mix in. You may want to taste the mixture and decide whether to add a little additional kick of maple syrup.

Then pour into an airtight container and cover with parchment paper to reduce air exposure. Place in your freezer and, after a few hours, enjoy… I recommend drizzling a little maple syrup on top before serving.

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Spicy Chocolate Ice Cream

spicy chocolate ice cream

Chocolate and spice… always a good idea! Thankfully Mayans and Aztecs were mixing chili peppers into their chocolate about 800 years ago, and the trend hasn’t stopped since.

I’ve seen similar flavors named ‘mexican chocolate’ and ‘chocolate chili.’ Here I made Jeni’s ‘Queen City Cayenne’ on New Year’s Eve. This ice cream has an initially smooth chocolatey taste, followed by a very spicy finish. Probably would be delicious in a morning cup of coffee…

Spicy Chocolate Ice Cream, from Jeni’s: (makes 1 quart)

For the chocolate paste:

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1.5 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

For the ice cream base:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons of cream cheese (let it soften for 15 minutes in a large bowl)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1  1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste (I used 1/8 but could have used even more)

1) Make the chocolate paste: in a small pan mix the cocoa, 1/3 cup sugar, and water and continue to mix as you bring to a boil over low-medium heat. Boil for 30 seconds and then remove the pan from the heat. Add the bittersweet chocolate and stir until smooth. Set this aside.

2) Mix about 4 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl – I like to mash it up with a fork.

3) Put the cream cheese into a large bowl (glass or metal) and once it softens a little, whisk in the salt and the warm chocolate mixture.

4) Combine the remaining ingredients (milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup) in a large pot and bring to a boil while stirring gently. Allow the mixture to boil for 3-4 minutes, then lower the heat and add in the cornstarch mixture. Boil for about 1-2 more minutes, or until the cream base is thick (when you dip a spoon into it, the base should be thick on the back of the spoon so that you can draw a line in it with your finger).

5) Slowly pour a little of the hot cream into the bowl of chocolatey cream cheese and whisk gently. When the cream cheese is very smooth and not lumpy, continue adding the rest of the hot cream base while whisking. Add the cinnamon and cayenne and mix them in. Place this bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice water. Stir the mixture every 5 minutes to keep it smooth, and add more ice to the ice bath if necessary. Wait about 30 minutes until the mixture cools.

6) Freeze the ice cream using an ice cream machine, until its lighter and fluffy, about 20-25 minutes. Just before finishing, add the nuts and let them mix in. Then pour into an airtight container and cover with parchment paper to reduce air exposure. Place in your freezer and, after a few hours, enjoy.

Vanilla Chambord Ice Cream with Bourbon Cake

IMG_1896Happy New Year! Phew, 2012 was a roller-coaster. Lots of good things happened to me (marriage, house-buying, won a few environmental campaigns, celebrated an Obama victory, went to Kauai), and lots of awful things happened across the globe. I’m ready for 2013 and a fresh start.

After a warm, beach vacation with Greg’s family, I wanted to celebrate New Year’s Eve at home with a few friends. Greg and I spent the entire day cooking: apple bourbon cake, white bean dip, baked goat cheese, crostini, ricotta spread, blood orange punch. And, of course, ice cream. Before anyone came over, I put up a ridiculous amount of christmas lights – behind curtains and throughout our bar – to add some sparkles. Then I added sparkles to Mia (the pooch) and then I got sparkly myself. IMG_1829

The two recipes I’m excited to share are the apple bourbon cake (which I’ve frozen the leftovers to make into ice cream) and one ice cream recipe. I made two flavors of ice cream: spicy chocolate, and vanilla with chambord, which is black raspberry liqueur. Should I share all the recipes? The scones I made for our sleepover pals post-party? The punch? The baked goat cheese? Maybe, but for starters, I bring you my first flavor that I made up myself! The vanilla chambord flavor was puckery sweet and festive – and I highly recommend using a fresh vanilla bean. Bourbon cake recipe to follow very soon.

Vanilla Chambord Ice Cream  (makes 1 quart)

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoons of cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons of cream cheese (let it soften for 15 minutes in a large bowl)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cups sugarIMG_1854
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/4 cup black raspberry liqueur– a mini bottle of Chambord is almost 1/4 cup, and worked well

Prep: slice the vanilla bean in half length-wise and scrape the beans out. Reserve the pod.

1) Mix 2.5 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl – I like to mash it up with a fork.

2) Once the cream cheese is softened in a large bowl, whisk in the salt.

3) Combine the remaining ingredients (milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla beans and pod) in a large pot and bring to a boil while stirring gently. Allow the mixture to boil for 4 minutes, then lower the heat and add in the cornstarch mixture. Boil for about 1 more minute until the cream base is thick (when you dip a spoon into it, the base should be thick on the back of the spoon so that you can draw a line in it with your finger).IMG_1842

4) Slowly pour a little of the hot cream into the bowl of cream cheese and whisk gently. When the cream cheese is very smooth and not lumpy, continue adding the rest of the hot cream base while whisking. Add the black raspberry liqueur and mix it in. Place this bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice water. Stir the mixture every 5 minutes to keep it smooth, and add more ice to the ice bath if necessary. Wait about 30 minutes until the mixture is cooled.

5) Remove the vanilla pod halves and freeze the ice cream using an ice cream machine, until its lighter and fluffy, about 20-25 minutes. Just before finishing, add the nuts and let them mix in. Then pour into an airtight container and cover with parchment paper to reduce air exposure. Place in your freezer and, after a few hours, enjoy.IMG_1891