Tag Archives: ice cream

BANANA SPLITS

We have been spending a lot of time lately with our Los Angeles grandchildren. In particular, Susan has been assisting in school-related transportation. All of that is different from when I was growing up. First, few if any kids walk to school, and at least in Southern California there are no orange school buses. Parents line up for blocks in their cars before the schools open in the morning, waiting to drop off their child in a congested delivery area and then creating a neighborhood traffic jam on their way out. The process is repeated – some of it in reverse – at the end of the school day. Second, hours are completely different school to school so that the bell may ring at 7:30 in the high school but not until 8:30 in the middle school.  This makes it easier for parents with kids in more than one school, but it also keeps one on the road for hours. Then, I guess just to keep you on your toes, Tuesday hours are likely to be different from Monday hours – but not every week. We now have a detailed schedule plastered on the kitchen wall, just the same as the one at my daughter’s house. With a schedule like that, you are bound to need a little refreshment in the afternoon, and my wife and grandson are kindred spirits.

They often make a stop at the local outlet of Handel’s Ice Cream. By now they have the routine completely worked out: walk up to the window, study the menu of at least 30 or 40 flavors of ice cream, place your order, and when it is dished up, sit at a garden table in front and eat up. There are more elaborate treats, including milk shakes and sundaes. The most treasured item is the banana split, and when there is need for a special celebration (or maybe not so special) it calls for a banana split.

Handel’s version of the banana split is fairly traditional except that it comes in a plastic disposable dish. One day I was reminiscing about my childhood and ice cream parlors with Naugahyde-covered stools and glass bowls designed especially to hold a banana split. My grandson found that an interesting story (an unusual reaction of one of my grandchildren to one of my stories) and wanted to find one of those glass dishes.

Thus, began my quest. None of the local stores had the bowls in stock, and the owner of the kitchen store allowed as how they probably weren’t made anymore. All I had to do was look on Amazon to find a carton of six bowls made by Libbey Glass priced at about $4 apiece. I ordered them, and they arrived moderately safely with only one broken. They looked like the ones that I remember from my childhood, long with curved-up ends and just big enough to hold a split banana and three scoops of ice cream.  Finding ice cream was easy, and I settled on the classics: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.

Sauces took more effort. I am still getting used to the local grocery store, and I couldn’t find sauces, so I decided to make my own. The pineapple was easy, although not as satisfying as the real thing. For the chocolate sauce, I made a cream-predominant ganache, and for the butterscotch, I used an internet recipe from The Perfect Cake (Susan G. Purdy) by way of the Washington Post and the famous blog, Smitten Kitchen.

Since it was my week for dessert at the Sunday family dinner, I made banana splits. They turned out to be a big, big hit with my grandson. Not surprisingly, they turned out to be a big hit with everyone else.

RECIPES

Chocolate Ganache Sauce

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces (by weight) heavy cream
  • 4 ounces (by weight) chocolate chips, chopped (best quality you can find)

Method

  1. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan and immediately remove from the heat.
  2. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate chips into the warm milk, shaking the pan gently to make sure the chocolate is in contact with the cream.
  3. Let stand, undisturbed, for 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt.
  4. Stir until the mixture is smooth and completely combined. Transfer to a container and cool.
  5. Since the sauce contains cream, you should refrigerate if you do not use it immediately. That will make the sauce too thick to pour. You can rewarm it very gently with a 5 to 10 second pulse in the microwave.

Butterscotch Sauce

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar (packed)
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Method

  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat
  2. Add the sugar, cream, and salt, whisking to combine completely.
  3. Bring to a low boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and cool. Refrigerate if not using immediately.
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FRENCH VANILLA ICE CREAM

It is definitely the time of year to make ice cream at home. It always tastes so much better than what you buy at the store, and these days it is easy to make.

When I was a child, in the hot summer we often sat out on the back porch with the ice cream churn,  a burlap sack of ice, and a big box of rock salt. My mother would set a tinned canister filled with a sweet cream mixture in the middle of the wooden churn bucket, and my father would pack it with ice and rock salt in layers so that the melting ice would stay as cold as possible. Then the kids took turns turning the crank so that the dasher inside the canister would scrape the cream as it froze against the side. The process seemed to take a long time, and no single kid could finish the whole effort. At the end, some grown-up – usually my father – would turn the crank until it wouldn’t turn any more. The dasher came out. The kids took turns licking it, and the ice cream was put back into the ice to firm up a bit before everyone got their own bowlful of the ambrosia.

Next in the evolution of the home ice cream maker was one with an electric motor. Ours never survived very long, because the motor would burn out when everyone forgot to watch it carefully.

Now, there are all sorts of choices and all sorts of prices. We have had our machine for many years, and it continues to work just fine. One advantage is that we can make ice cream whenever we want it. We don’t have to wait for summer. We stick the canister in the bottom of our freezer and forget about it until it is time to make a batch. Then we fill it up, put the dasher in, fasten down the cover, and turn on the motor. In about half an hour, we have ice cream that tastes better than anything one can buy. Our machine cost about $50 when we bought it.  It’s probably a little more expensive these days, but not much. You can buy versions with built-in freezers and elaborate adjustments. Those can easily run to well over $300. In my view, you have to eat a lot of ice cream to justify the expense, but someone must be buying those machines.

This recipe comes from our family cookbook. It is called French vanilla ice cream. I always thought “French” referred to some kind of fancy vanilla, but it turns out that “French” implies that the ice cream is made from custard. That makes me think that the proper name for the dish should be vanilla French ice cream. I don’t look for that change to occur.

Crème anglaise is probably the most common custard base used for ice cream. This recipe is actually based on a modified crème anglaise that uses whole eggs instead of egg yolks. But the same warning applies: don’t let the custard get too hot or the eggs will scramble. Even if you don’t do that, you should always strain the custard before you chill it overnight as invariably there will  be tiny little clumps of egg, and you want the finished ice cream to be as smooth as possible.

RECIPE

French Vanilla Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method

  1. In a bowl, using an electric beater, cream the eggs and sugar together until pale yellow and smooth
  2. Add milk and beat until completely combined
  3. Place the mixture in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture has thickened and coats the spoon. It should reach about 160°F. Do not boil or the eggs will scramble and you will have to start over. Remove from the heat and cool for about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the cream and vanilla. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve into a storage container and refrigerate, covered, over night.
  5. Place the mixture in an ice cream maker and spin according to directions.
  6. Transfer the finished ice cream to a container and place in the freezer for an hour to temper. Serve.

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CHOCOLATE VELVET ICE CREAM

Our older daughter, Carol, loves to cook. During our recent visit to help her unpack, we thought that we would order a lot of take-out, but she insisted on cooking in the midst of unpacking, dealing with repairmen and installers, working as a full-time attorney, and serving as scheduler and chauffeur for many adolescent activities. Never mind her role as a health care activist.

Carol is a great all-around cook, but her specialty is desserts for which she always gets her kids to “help”. Mostly because of that, we usually gain at least five pounds on any visit to Los Angeles.

This time, she made some delicious outdoor meals (It is summer near the beach in Southern California, after all.) along with two outstanding desserts: a cherry/peach tart made from fruit she bought at the farmers market, and this chocolate velvet ice cream.

The original recipe for the ice cream was published in the August, 1997 issue of Gourmet magazine. It is now on the web at the Epicurious web site where it gets a four fork user rating, and 88% of correspondents say they would make it again. . It has enough chocolate for even the most serious chocoholic and is amazingly creamy and smooth. Chocolate ice cream is my grandson’s favorite dessert, so he was in heaven and enthusiastically helped with the preparation.

You will need an ice cream maker, but the handy little Cuisinart countertop model will work just fine.

The original recipe called for Dutch-process cocoa, which I was unable to find in my local grocery stores. The so-called “natural” cocoa is more common in the USA, although you can probably find the Dutch version if you look hard. You can also order it on the internet. According to Harold McGee in his classic On Food and Cooking, Revised, Scribner, New York, 2004, p. 705 “dutching” is the process of alkalinizing cocoa with potassium carbonate. That gives it a smoother taste, but it also means that in baking you may need to use baking powder because the cocoa won’t react with baking soda to give a rise. Since there is no baking here, it’s fine to substitute natural cocoa in this recipe although it may give a sharper, more bitter taste to the final product. In my view, that is not enough to worry about.

Also, you will notice that the recipe for the custard is basically a chocolate crème anglaise finished off with a ganache. How can you possibly go wrong with that combination? After you have chilled the custard you will see that it is quite dense. For that reason, it is important to beat it until it is lighter and more fluffy before you spin it in the ice cream maker. In the end, the ice cream is like eating a frozen chocolate pot de crème because that is basically what it is. This recipe makes about 1 quart of ice cream.

RECIPE

Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces quality bittersweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate nibs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened  cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 large egg yolks

Method

  1. Chop the chocolate or measure out the chocolate nibs and set aside.
  2. In a 4 quart heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, cocoa, cream and milk with a whisk. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to the boil, stirring occasionally.
  3. In the meantime, beat the egg yolks until smooth  in a bowl large enough to contain the milk and cream mixture.
  4. Whisking the eggs continuously, pour the hot milk and cream mixture very slowly into the beaten yolks. You may scramble the eggs if you add the hot mixture too quickly. If that happens, you will have to start over.
  5. Return the mixture to the saucepan, set over medium low heat, whisking constantly. Use a thermometer so that the temperature does not rise too quickly, especially toward the end of cooking. Otherwise, you will again get scrambled eggs and have to start over.
  6. When the mixture reaches 170° F (79 °C) , remove from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate. Continue whisking until the chocolate is completely melted.
  7. Strain the mixture into a clean bowl. Use a sieve, chinois, or tamis. Cover the custard with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight.
  8. When you are ready to spin the ice cream, beat the custard with an electric mixer until thick and fluffy. Then transfer to the freezing vessel of the ice cream mixer and spin until the ice cream has reached the desired consistency, probably about 45 minutes.
  9. Ripen the ice cream by transferring it to an air-tight container and storing in the freezer until hard – at least 2 hours.

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PIZZELLE

Special pizzelle iron

As Easter approaches, I remember a wonderful treat from my childhood.

Batter ready to be spooned into the baking iron

When I was about 10 years old, my family lived in an apartment in the midst of a big Italian family. The grandparents, known to all as “Ma and Pa”, lived in the “Big House” which was surrounded by the smaller homes of their many children and their families. Two unmarried daughters as well as the family of one of their brothers also lived in the Big House. It was clear that the Big House served as the social and communications center for the whole family.

Heating the pizzelle iron

Evening meals were a gathering of the famíglia, with the women serving the meal to the men who ate at a long wooden table in the kitchen. Then the children took their turn, and finally the women ate and cleaned up. This family tradition carried over into many other activities, especially near the holidays. In the spring, before Easter, there was a great deal of cooking and baking in preparation for the celebration ahead.

A spoonful of batter ready to bake

A favorite during this baking spree was the pizzelle. These delicate cookies were baked outside over a hot stove.  Kids clustered around to get them still warm from the griddle. That’s still the best way to eat them. You can spread them with butter or jam while they are still warm, and they are so good. You can also form them around a conical wooden dowel (like the plunger in a chinois) while they are still soft and warm. As they cool, they will firm up and make a perfect cone for your gelato or ice cream.

Nearly ready to take off the iron

You will need a special pizzelle baking iron, but you can find one in most specialty cooking stores or websites.

A crispy pizzelle

 Ingredients
1¾ Cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 eggs
½ Cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon anise extract
melted butter to brush the pizzelle iron

Wrapping a still-warm pizzelle to make a cone

1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and lemon zest and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric mixer until pale yellow and smooth. Add the melted butter, vanilla, and anise extract and beat until completely combined.
3. Gradually stir in the flour, baking powder, and lemon zest mixture to form a smooth batter.
4. Heat the pizzelle iron on both sides until very hot. Brush both sides of the mold lightly with butter, spoon in about 1 tablespoon of batter, and close the iron. Trim off any batter that oozes out of the iron. Bake about 1 minute on each side or until the pizzelle is golden brown. Transfer the baked pizzelle to a cooling rack and repeat the process until the batter is used up.

A stack of pizzelles ready to eat

Yield: 24 to 30  5-inch cookies

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