Thursday, July 30, 2009

TWD - Rosemary Honey Ice Cream

Better late than never, huh? Several things kept me from posting on Tuesday, but the biggest one was that I was not able to actually make the ice cream until Wednesday.

So, starting at the beginning. . . . This week's TWD recipe was picked by LinnyLu and it was Vanilla Ice Cream. Meh. I've made vanilla ice cream more times than I can count in my lifetime, so I decided to jazz it up a little. Three months ago, we were out for dinner . . . a very expensive dinner that wasn't very good. But the dessert was fabulous - it was rosemary gelato. The rosemary was so intense that I could still taste it on my breath after I brushed my teeth before bed.

But I liked the flavor, so I decided to try and make rosemary ice cream. The only recipe I could find was Charlie Trotter's recipe. I didn't use it because that's not really the point of belong to Tuesday with Dorie and using someone else's recipe. But I used the infusion method he recommended. After heating the milk, I let about 1/4 cup of rosemary sprigs sit in the hot milk for half an hour. Then I continued with the rest of Dorie's recipe.

I was a little concerned because after I slowly combined the milk mixture with the egg mixture and started to heat it up again, it got lumpy. Not bad lumpy, but lumpy. Out of the hundreds of times I have made ice cream, this is the only time I have come close to curdling the custard. I'm still not sure it actually curdled, though. It was kind of lumpy, but not weird looking otherwise and tasted just fine.

So, I let it sit overnight to cool and it was still a little lumpy, but tasted just fine. I froze it and it wasn't lumpy at all. So I don't really know what happened, but it all turned out just fine in the end. I really liked the rosemary and honey together. It was refreshing and comforting all at the same time. I think I might try other herbs. I've had lemongrass, bay leaf, lavender, thyme, and basil ice cream (not all together) and they were all good. I don't know if I would pair them with honey or just plain sugar and vanilla.

One thing I'm dying to try is cayenne pepper chocolate ice cream. When I lived in Minneapolis in the early 90s, there was an independent ice cream store across the street from our apartment building. It was some of the best ice cream I've ever had. My favorite flavor was called Coyote Chocolate and it was cayenne and dark chocolate ice cream. It was a slow heat spicy but sweet as well. Someday, I hope to perfect that recipe.

I have a picture of the rosemary honey ice cream, but it is on my camera, which is at my house, where I am not. I am sitting in a bar and currently waiting for my fourth or fifth Captain and Coke to be served. I'm a little drunk.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TWD - Blueberry Blankety-Blank Manger and Newlyweds

This week’s TWD is Blanc Manger, picked by Susan of Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy. I’ve never made Blanc Manger and I’m not sure if I have ever eaten Blanc Manger. I’m a big fan of all pudding like desserts - creme brulee, custard, panna cotta - so I was pretty sure I would like Blanc Manger.

The word "blanc" makes me laugh, however, because it is part of a running joke in our family. There is a type of champagne called "Blanc de Blanc" which is pronounced "blonk duh blonk" but my mother insists on pronouncing it "blankety blank." It has something to do with the champagne tasting dinners my grandfather threw during my parents’ engagement to determine which champagne would be served at their wedding. I’m sure no one got drunk during these dinners. Therefore, despite more than six years of French classes, I really want to pronounce Blanc Manger "blankety blank" manger because it’s funny.

Anyway. Frankly, I’m getting a little tired of red fruits and almonds in the TWD recipes, so I used blueberries for my Blanc Manger, copying from Jennifer of KPOW, who brought her mixed fruit Blanc Manger to book club on Sunday night. Next week, I hope to get away from almonds, particularly ground almonds, which proved to be my downfall in this recipe and last week’s recipe.

I didn’t take very many pictures of the process because there was nothing really visually stunning about the process, although the end result was very pretty. You can see the almond chunks that settled to the bottom and then became the top of the dessert.

Of course, after I made it, I read on the TWD that some people used almond flour. I had no idea such a thing existed and I will use that next time, if I can find it locally. With the almond chunks, the texture was like undercooked tapioca. But really good flavor.

I saw this recipe when I first purchased the cookbook and read the description right away to see how difficult it would be to make. I was floored by one of the statements in the description: this dessert is "beloved, particularly, I'm told, by newlyweds with no kitchen experience, because it is positively foolproof." There was something that really bothered me about that notion. I've been thinking about it all week.

I think it raises my feminist flag when I hear that because it relies on the 1950's concept that women marry young, only learn to cook to satisfy their prospective husbands and the husbands' work colleagues and families, and that upon getting married, adults' lives become stereotypical versions of the perfect home life.

Sure, that's probably true of some women who get married in 2009, just like it probably wasn't true of all women who got married in 1954. But the facts are that women (and men) are getting married later and most people who get married have lived on their own for some time before getting married. And most people find themselves in the situation of needing to feed themselves, wanting to feed others and entertain, and needing to know how to make a good dessert (or knowing where to buy one.)

Perhaps this is fueled by that streak of anger I still have about being unmarried and nearly 38. Granted, my life has taken a wonderful turn in the last year and marriage is in my future. But that doesn't immediately erase the 20 years of wondering and worrying if it would ever happen. In those 20 years, I had to grow up and be an adult without getting married. I had to learn how to feed myself on a budget without eating out every night, how to host a party, how to make a kick-ass dessert to bring to an office pot-luck, and how to manage a household on my own.

In all honesty, I had to stock a kitchen with tools without getting everything as bonus prizes off my registery for getting married.

But that's not all of it. Why couldn't it just say that this recipe is beloved by those just learning to cook or those newly discovering baking? Why does it have to play to a stereotype?

Friday, July 17, 2009

My New Happy Place

I have discovered a new blog that makes me very, very happy. Every time I'm feeling a little low or sad, I read a few posts. There's nothing like uncontrolled giggling, tears running down my face, and near pants-wetting experiences to make me feel better.

STFU, Parents.

*Warning - if you are one of those no-sense-of-humor parents, please ignore. You won't get it anyway.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

TWD - Brioche Plum Tart

So, I bought a bunch of plums and they were good, cheap plums. Unfortunately, they were also mismatched - some were deep purplish-red inside and some were yellow inside. The purplish-red ones were really, really good and sooooo juicy. I took the picture at the top of this post because they looked so incredible when I sliced them open. Now I realize that picture looks like I am holding a freshly-ripped-out-perhaps-still-beating heart. But you get the point.

I also had jam issues. It seems plum jam is a rarity in Central Illinois. Not that we don't suffer from a over-abundance of other fringe jams . . . black cherry, apricot, fig, guava, and tutti frutti. Yes. Tutti-frutti jam. But no plum. So I used the black raspberry jam we picked up at the Des Moines Farmers' Market last weekend. In the end, I don't think it made a difference because the tart was so plum-y that the jam was lost.

But it certainly was pretty. I used a total of six plums, but they were regular everyday plums, not the Italian ones mentioned in the recipe. I also used an 11 inch tart pan - mostly because that happens to be the only type I have. However, I also read from other bakers that they wish they had used a bigger pan.

My brioche didn't puff much, but it still tasted very briochey. The fruit was slightly tart and I thought the almonds were not really cohesive with the rest of the tart. I think what would be really good is a layer of marzipan instead of jam. Yum.

Of course, I would probably eat a still-beating-heart if it had marzipan in it.

Speaking of blood, this picture sort of looks like I had an accident while slicing the tart. Don't worry - that's just plum juice. Really.