Blogging about a variety of things I enjoy. Also peddling my wares at Thicket and Thistle on Etsy.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

the earl

Today, upon Lent's end, I finally broke out my three-week-old but as yet unused Cuisinart ice cream maker. The inaugural flavor: Earl Grey. The result: Quite delicious but texturally off. I ended up doubling Mac & Cheese's recipe in order to fill my 2-quart maker. The recipe itself is easy as pie, though, frankly, almost any pie is going to be more complicated than this ice cream. I started out warming whole milk, half and half, and sugar in a saucepan until very warm and until the sugar had dissolved. Then I dunked in ten bags of decaf Earl Grey and let them steep for close to an hour. I was starting to get a little impatient as dessert was only a couple hours away but you do want to give the steeping process time. It ended up being just enough - the ice cream was aromatic and sweet with the taste of black tea and bergamot but still subtle and milky. The Earl Grey cream was ladled into a big mixing bowl in which I'd already whisked ten egg yolks. I returned the mixture to the saucepan and heated it on medium. By whisking nearly constantly, the mixture was supposed to turn custard-y. At this point I was even more impatient to get it off the burner and allow it to cool so it wasn't quite as viscose as custard but it had definitely thickened. Then I tapped my foot for about 45 minutes, waiting for the stuff to cool. This is where the process went slightly awry. Well, maybe not awry so much as curtailed to the point of regret. Though the recipe didn't call for it, I really should have chilled - not just cooled but chilled, like in the fridge - the custard (if you could even call it that) before pouring it into my faithfully chilled ice bucket. In any case, in it went, just above lukewarm in temperature, and on went the machine for about 30 minutes, at the end of which my ice cream had the consistency of a Wendy's Frosty. Despite putting the ice cream in the freezer until it was absolutely necessary to serve it, it starting to melt pretty quickly after spooning on top of my meringue nests. (I considered using the ten egg whites to make my own - an efficient way to make the vehicle for your ice cream - but I didn't have parchment paper or superfine sugar and I already had meringues from Balducci's so unfortunately the egg whites went to waste.) The end result was perfect in terms of color (it reminded me of tea-stained paper, Belgian linen, and the muted wood floors of that tea house in Prague) and taste (though next time I'd hold back a little bit on the sugar to make it even more understated). The texture most definitely wasn't like typical store-bought ice cream or even fresh gelato. The Wendy's Frosty is the perfect comparison. I'm confident that what's left of it will firm up in the freezer overnight and that next time chilling the custard will curb somewhat the defrosting that begins as soon as you take the ice bucket out of the freezer. I get the feeling that texture is a common issue with ice cream makers, especially for newcomers. In a way, that's part of the charm. With that, the Summer of Frozen Sweet Cream commences. Next up is cinnamon. Fresh strawberry and peach (individually) are definitely on the agenda, as are lavender and macha/green tea. I've lived and learned that patience and refrigeration are key virtues. My next question is how to make my ice cream healthier but as a diet foods hater I suspect that if I want to cut down on the cholesterol I'll have to turn to sorbet because healthy, tasty ice cream is an oxymoron.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

a good southern breakfast

Ruth Ann's, Columbus, GA. Occasion: Valentine's Day, 2011. Health Factor: None. Deliciousnous: Mmm. (That's a roger.) First and foremost, fried pickles. A little heavy for breakfast (well, brunch) but I have trouble denying myself when it comes to fried vegetables (or dough, or cheese, or poultry). Next up, red velvet pancakes, racked and stacked. Cream cheese drizzle - check. Whipped cream - as you can see. Chocolate chips - they're all there. The whole spread. Pickles and hotcakes. Country ham (solitary on a plate with jous on the side) and biscuits and sausage gravy. Sweet tea (unpictured) to refresh the palate. Amen. Image 1: