Like most people, I celebrate instant gratification. See also:
Drive-thru restaurants (preferably those that serve diet Coke, not Pepsi).
DVR’d episodes of Barefoot Contessa.
Unfortunately, the older I get, the more I realize that life is often just series of hurdles that keep us from instant gratification. See also:
Small, hungry children.
I suppose there is a lesson to be learned in there…somewhere? Like, the hurdles are really designed to teach us something, keep us growing. But as noble as that idea sounds, let’s be real: it can be freaking annoying, all this slowing of my roll. If you’re picking up what I’m laying down, then I’ve got just the thing for you: the world’s simplest homemade ice cream recipe.
So, I’m from Illinois, remember? Growing up, the biggest fruit picking thing we ever did was apple picking in the fall, and maybe a first grade school field trip to the pumpkin patch, which was really only exciting because we all got to wear jeans instead of our school uniforms and could count on Capri Sun juice packs in our brown bag lunches. Because of my limited childhood fruit picking experiences, it never ceases to blow my mind that I’m raising a child in California–not only can we pick apples and pumpkins in the fall, but crazy things that I only ever ate on rare occasions as a kid, and strictly from the supermarket. Strawberries! Blackberries! Citrus! Kiwi fruit, for crying out loud! All for the public picking at little farms tucked away up and down the coast. Unreal!
California kids don’t know how good they’ve got it. You take them strawberry picking, and they slam your sofa into your front window and bust a whole section of it. These kids, I tell ya.
Oh, yes! Didn’t I tell you? Little C totally shattered the front window. It was epic. The sort of thing that makes a mother curl up in her closet with a bowl of Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream and a bottle of Wild Turkey. Or something.
So let me tell you how this is all going to go down. First we’re going to make one heck of a cinnamon ice cream. Awesome, right? I know it’s cold out. I know I’m completely out of line. Just hear me out.
Okay. Then we’re going to caramelize some breakfast cereal.
Wait, wait, hang–I know, just wait.
Then we’re gonna mix the caramelized cereal into the ice cream.
Oh, c’mon! It’s Christmastime!
Stick with me, here, people.
Before I go any further, I need to take you back a bit. Like, way back to when I was probably four or so, maybe. I know it was definitely before my little sister came along and dethroned me, so for certain younger than five. Anyway, back in the little suburban town in Illinois where I grew up, there was a Swensen’s ice cream parlor that I was obsessed with. It didn’t stick around for too long into my childhood; I think many of the Midwestern locations closed up shop at some point. But I do very clearly remember a certain cinnamon ice cream they had that just about made my whole life, even though I probably really only had it a couple of times. Funny how a small child can savor such fleeting moments so vividly. Like when you promise them a cookie, like, seven hours ago.
Anyway, fast forward many years later and I’m cruising the highly dangerous, hilly streets of my new hometown of San Francisco. Stopping abruptly to avoid being killed by a racing streetcar full of Alcatraz sweatshirt-wearing tourists, I look up to see a flippin’ Swensen’s ice cream parlor! What?! Childhood memories came flooding back, filling my eyes with tears. Cinnamon Ice Cream Tears. So I had to pull over and check it out. And wouldn’t you know it, those jerks don’t even have cinnamon ice cream anymore? Geez.
So for quite some time I’ve been dreaming up my own cinnamon ice cream, one with all the spice and creaminess that I remember from the days of yore. But because I’ve become cranky and particular about my ice cream in my old age, I needed more than just plain cinnamon ice cream. I needed to add some dimension and texture. I needed to mix in some Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. Obvi.
I opted to up the crazy further by caramelizing the cereal to a satisfying sweet-salty crunch with salted butter and brown sugar, which also keeps it from getting all soft when mixed into the ice cream.
Can you just imagine a scoop of this stuff on your holiday pies instead of plain old vanilla? Hoooo, boy. All mixed together–the spicy, creamy ice cream dotted with bits of what amounts to sweet-salty, candied bits of crunch–this ice cream gives the ghost of Swensen’s cinnamon ice cream a run for its money. It will make you do questionable things. Like finding a shameless way to justify eating ice cream for breakfast.
If you can get your hands on it, I highly, highly suggest getting some Vietnamese cinnamon for this recipe (sometimes sold as Saigon cinnamon in supermarkets these days). It is so much more potent, so much more alive in flavor than your standard ground cinnamon. It also has a more intense color. The amounts listed below are the result of testing this recipe with it, so you may need to add more of regular ground cinnamon to get a noticably cinnamon-y flavor. Remember that the unfrozen custard needs to be sweeter and more intense in flavor than you might want in the end, because these things become muted when frozen.
I used salted butter for the caramelized cereal, but if you have unsalted butter on hand, add a good pinch of salt to get that great sweet-salty balance.
Makes just shy of 1 quart
For the ice cream base:
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon ground Vietnamese cinnamon (see note)
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the caramelized cereal:
1 1/2 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal
3 tablespoons salted butter (or unsalted–see note)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, cinnamon and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon (when you run your finger across the back of the spoon through the custard, a track should remain and not run back into itself). Do not let the custard come to a bubble or boil while cooking. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl set over an ice-water bath. Stir often to cool the custard down quickly. Cover the bowl of custard with aluminum foil and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, overnight, or at least a few hours.
While the custard is chilling, prepare the caramelized cereal. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Place the cereal in a large zip top bag and coarsely crush it with the back of a measuring cup or wooden spoon. You don’t want to grind it very fine–just breaking each piece of cereal into a few smaller pieces is good.
Place the butter and brown sugar in microwave-safe bowl and microwave until the butter is melted and hot, about 45-60 seconds on high. Whisk to blend well. Pour over the crushed cereal and toss to coat. Pat the mixture in a tight, but even, layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, until the sugar has visibly melted together the cereal and caramelized it. Let cool completely before breaking into about 1/2 inch pieces.
When the custard is cold, freeze it in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. During the last few minutes of churning, add the caramelized cereal bits. Scrape the soft ice cream into a sealed container and freeze until firm.
Darling Readers, I completely understand the polarizing effects of coconut. As with opinions on, oh, say, cilantro or Los Angeles, I wouldn’t dream of trying to convert the haters. So if you’re not on Team Coconut, then I’ll catch you on the next post, no hard feelings. But if you’re like me and your most recent personal battles involve resisting the urge to mow a sleeve of Samoas each morning for breakfast, then take my hand, and I will lead you to the ambrosial Promised Land of Coconut with this gem of a recipe. It will absolutely make your day.
Speaking of day-making developments, I recently was all puffed up with pride to learn that Food52 posted a write-up about this here site. I’ve been a rabid Food52 fan since its launch, and consider it to be one of the most inspired food sites out there, full of great, meticulously tested recipes and lots of forehead-smacking “why didn’t I think of that?” ideas. Each week they hold a contest to pick the best recipe in a given category, and all the weekly winners will go into a cookbook to be published at the end of the year (ahem, 52 weeks…get it?). This gelato recipe was one of the weekly winners, and oh, man, it does not disappoint.
Okay, so I am all for the occasional teeny scoop of artisanal ice cream so rich and dense that you really can’t handle more than a tiny portion. Eets ver-ee, oh, how do you seeeyyy….French. But my ideal ice cream is lighter, not too sweet, more milk than cream. Which is to say the kind of ice cream you can shovel into your face from a cereal bowl with a serving spoon. And this ice cream fits the bill. It’s made with all whole milk, no cream, and the richness comes from egg yolks and lots and lots of shredded coconut.
The method of giving the ice cream base its dreamy coconut flavor was so interesting to me–you basically steep a bunch in the custard, and give it a good long rest in the fridge overnight before freezing it. Some ice cream batters you can sort of speed-chill before putting them in your ice cream maker and it works out fine, but for the best flavor in this recipe, the extra time to love up that custard with real coconut flavor is so worth it. A good hit of vanilla bean paste rounds the whole thing out.
Sidenote: Have I told you how I’ve developed an unnatural obsession with vanilla bean paste? Huge vanilla flavor, just huge. Gorgeous bean flecks everywhere. It’s the most perfect marriage of vanilla extract and beans, without having to deal with scraping and storing pods that are so pricey and always tend to dry out faster than I can use them. I want to be buried with a jar of Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste. This has been an unsponsored love-fest endorsement from the Piece of Cake Kitchen. We will now return to the ice cream.
The best part is that its punched up at the end with an add-in of toasted coconut that gives an incredible depth of flavor and irresistible texture. And since I can’t leave well enough alone, I threw in a handful of mini chocolate chips and now I can’t imagine my life without having put them in there.
If you’re like me and you prefer a high ratio of tasty bits to cream in your ice cream, then you will be in your element with this gelato. It’s the absolute perfect thing to keep you feeling all blissful and summery during these “Is it spring? Is it winter? Oh, it’s sunny! No, wait. WTF, RAIN?!” sort of times.
The original recipe calls for all dessicated coconut, a very finely shredded unsweetened coconut that can be easily found at places like Whole Foods and other natural foods stores. I’m including that measurement here. I only had one cup dessicated coconut on hand, but a big thing of regular sweetened shredded coconut, so I used the sweetened coconut in the ice cream base and held back 1/4 cup of the sugar to account for the sugar in the coconut, and it turned out wonderfully. I imagine if you held back even more sugar, you could use all sweetened coconut in this recipe if it’s all you have on hand, but I have to say it would be worth it to seek out the dessicated coconut for adding in at the end–its texture is so perfect in the finished ice cream.
Makes 1 generous pint
2 cups desiccated coconut
2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 whole vanilla bean, or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread one cup of the coconut in a small baking pan and toast it in the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden brown stirring once or twice. Set aside.
Fill a large bowl with several inches of cold water and add ice. Set a smaller bowl over the ice bath. Make sure the water level isn’t so high that water can get into the smaller bowl.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla bean paste. Stir in the remaining cup of untoasted coconut. Keep whisking occasionally as the custard warms and then comes just to a bubble and thickens. When it coats the back of a spoon and you can run your finger through the custard on the spoon and a track remains, its ready.
Pour the custard into the small bowl over the ice bath, and stir it often until the custard is cool to the touch. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Stir in the cup of toasted coconut and chocolate chips during the last few minutes of churning. Freeze in an airtight container.
It’s 7:00 am. A mother stands with her wiggly baby on her hip, looking out a picture window, still sleepy, willing her cup of coffee to kick in. The ever-present fog of a San Francisco summer is rolling down the street. It’s been a week since they’ve seen the sun, and it’s beginning to get depressing. Suddenly, a bright ball of light begins to burn through the thick cloud cover above. The mother first squints at the almost-unfamiliar light, then incredulously stares, her eyes as big as her baby’s lush, open mouth. The fog burns off before their very eyes, revealing patches of blue that grow together to form an expanse of clear sunny sky. Could it really be? A sunny San Francisco day in the summer? A fire sparks within the weary mother, burning as bright as the sunlight that is now searing through the window. Sweet Georgia Brown! Go, go, go!!
The mother leaps away from the window, quickly drops to her knees and busies her offspring. “Here, baby, take my Blackberry! Your favorite! Ooh, shiny!! Shiny, right?! And look at this pretty TV remote with all the buttons and mommy’s jingly keys and all these other things that transfix you that we never let you have. Super fun, right baby?! Okay, you sit here now. Mama’s makin’ sorbet!!“
It may sound all dramatic, but it’s true, people. Though the stretch of cool, dreary days around here certainly made for excellent baking weather, there haven’t been many opportunities to enjoy summery frozen desserts in the manner in which nature intended–in full sun, on a deck, with peak-of-season fruit melting across the tongue. You’ll notice there’s only been two ice creams showcased here this season–tragic! I had to suck the marrow out of that sudden sunny day and get a batch of fresh strawberry sorbet churning first thing. There would surely be a dinner grilled outside later that day, and a sorbet would cap it off fabulously. Luckily, there was a basket of strawberries sitting in the fridge that were just edging past their prime.
I’d had such high hopes for eating those berries for breakfast, but the relentless cloudy weather had been more of the oatmeal variety, and even in their ruby-red glory, I just kept passing over those berries while skimming the refrigerator shelves in the morning. But I am a strong proponent of No Berry Left Behind. So into the blender went that still-promising fruit with a touch of sugar. I added about 1/3 cup of fresh orange juice just to bring the amount of fruit puree to two cups for a full pint of sorbet (and because I love the flavor combination). I’m thinking other fruit nectars, like peach, would also be lovely here.
Strawberry Balsamic Sorbet
Adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook
Makes 1 pint
Many sorbet recipes, including the one from the Zuni book, call for straining the puree. I skipped that step altogether–I like the body that the berry pulp gives the finished dessert and strawberry seeds are so tiny that you don’t even know they’re there. Plus you get twice the amount of finished sorbet without straining the puree. If you want a more refined finished product or have a skeevy relationship with seeds, by all means strain away, but double the recipe so you end up with a full pint of sorbet (one pound of berries yields about a cup of strained puree).
1 pound fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
1/3 to 1/2 cup fresh orange juice or other unsweetened, complimentary fruit juice
4-6 tablespoons of sugar, to taste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon good balsamic vinegar, to taste
Puree the berries in a blender until smooth. Check to see how much puree you have at this point, and add orange juice to bring the amount up to two cups. Blend to combine. Add the sugar, starting with 4 tablespoons, and blend again. Taste the puree, adding more sugar to taste. You want the puree to be almost too sweet–the sweetness will dull considerably when the sorbet is frozen. Finally, add the balsamic vinegar to taste, beginning with 1/2 teaspoon. Stop adding vinegar when the strawberry flavor is noticeably more pronounced, but you can’t taste the vinegar outright. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Scrape into an airtight container and freeze until firm.
Holler if you hear me, dear readers: do we really need one more food blogger waxing poetic about the vibrant bounty of summer fruits that’s out there right now? I didn’t think so. Therefore I will save you the adjectives and get to the point. Get to the market. Scoop up an armful of yellow nectarines that are just so perfect right now. Make this ice cream ASAP.
There really is nothing more delightfully “olde tymey summer” in feeling than a home-churned ice cream teeming with chunks of stone fruits at their peak. It’s a porch swings-lemonade stands-checkered tablecloths kind of greatness. And the way the cream plays off of the juicy, candy-sweet flesh of the fruit…oh, man…quintessential summer flavors, I tell you. Most of us would probably think of peaches as the classic pairing with ice cream, but when you use tender-skinned nectarines instead, you get the same sunny flavor while skipping the step of having to skin the fruit. And with the summer flying by as it is, who would argue with a cut down on prep time?
After you hunk up a bunch of farm fresh nectarines, simply cook them in water for a few minutes, add a bit of sugar, and blitz it into a chunky puree with a dreamy base of heavy and sour creams. The tang of the sour cream cuts the sweetness ever-so-slightly, and adds brilliant dimension and a clean finish to a classic flavor profile, making the frozen ice cream fantasically refreshing.
And the whole thing is really that easy, people. No egg custard making involved. Just fruit, sugar and cream, all churnin’ together and lovin’ on each other. Sound sexy? Oh, well, that’s because it is.
It’s no secret we’ve been enjoying our fair share of summer fruit desserts around here. And in this downright dreary San Francisco summer weather, it’s rarely too hot to turn on the oven to do a baked fruit dessert. But for those of you who actually see the sun and feel its rays on a regular basis all summer long like normal people, this ice cream is one of the very best ways to eat the season. It’s the perfect little button to an outdoor summer meal on a hot day. Or to help remind those of us who are perpetually fogged in that it is indeed late July.
Nectarine Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop
Makes about 1 quart
This recipe is a great way to use “dead-ripe” fruit, the super-sweet specimens full of soft spots that make eating them out of hand too messy. Resist the temptation to cut the sugar in this recipe, even if your fruit is very sweet. Though the unfrozen ice cream batter will taste almost cloyingly sweet, it will dull once the ice cream is frozen. Leaving the skins on the nectarines not only cuts down on prep time, but lends a pretty, rosy hue.
1 1/3 pounds ripe nectarines (about 4 large), pitted and cut into large chunks
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
In a medium, non-reactive saucepan over medium heat, cook the nectarines with the water until soft throughout, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the sugar, and cool to room temperature.
Place the sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla and lemon juice in a blender or food processor. Add the fruit mixture and blend until the ice cream batter is smooth but still slightly chunky.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, or speed-chill it by pouring it into in an aluminum bowl set over a larger bowl full of ice and cold water, stirring often until the ice cream batter is very cold. Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manfacturer’s instructions.
sites i love
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons License.