Adventures in Ice Cream-Making, Without the Machine

I’ll admit, I’m a little behind on my blog posting of late. But it’s for good reason, at least, and not just procrastination. It’s because I’ve been quite busy actually baking and making stuff. There were a number of days where it was simply too hot to bake, so my thoughts turned once again to ice cream. And I wasn’t about to have a little thing like not having a machine stop me. I’m not certain my arm has quite forgiven me for that decision. Actually no, that’s not entirely true: I’m pretty sure all was forgiven once I’d had a chance to sample the Malted Chocolate, which was the second flavour I’d made in the past few days. But now I’m just getting ahead of myself. First we need to talk about the Vanilla Bean with Dark Chocolate Chips and Candied Pecans.

The thing about baking with egg whites is that you’re often left with a number of egg yolks. Since I don’t generally like to waste ingredients (and am also cheap) I was always at a loss as to what to do with them. Until I discovered that they are a main ingredient for traditional ice cream. Well, it’s really more of a frozen custard. Either way, who cares? Just show me what to do so I can get it in my mouth already!

My first attempt with the Banana Ice made with coconut milk came out more as a freeze than a cream – I attributed it to the coconut milk. But it was when it happened again with the vanilla chocolate chip, although not to the same extreme, that I realized a bit more research was needed. I’d followed the directions properly, or so I thought. This particular recipe came from a package of Junket, also known as rennet which is a common enzyme used for making cheese or custard as it encourages milk to curdle. It is an ingredient most often found in British recipes. I feel like this may have helped with achieving the creamier texture, but the ice crystals were still a bit too large and gave the ice cream a grittiness that wasn’t unpleasant. it just didn’t feel like proper ice cream. Upon that further research I’d discovered two things I’d done wrong: I didn’t let it cool for long enough before putting it covered in the freezer, and I didn’t remove it from the container to stir it. Okay, that’s actually three things. But these are three vitally important things to remember if you’re daft enough to try making ice cream without an ice cream maker.

Armed with this new knowledge, I set about making one of my favourites: chocolate ice cream. This was a proper frozen custard ice cream recipe that I’d gotten from this book I’d picked up somewhere awhile back. It was at the last minute, much like the pecans I’d candied quickly in a frying pan with butter and brown sugar for the vanilla, when I decided I was going to throw in some malt powder to spice things up a little bit. I followed my new method – allow to cool for an hour to room temperature, freeze uncovered for an hour then turn out into bowl to stir before returning to the freezer still uncovered. And the result, in my humble opinion, was spectacular. I mean sure, it doesn’t have the emulsifiers or polymers that storebought ice cream has to keep it at the ideal scoopable temperature at all times, so you have to move it from freezer to fridge about twenty minutes before you plan on eating it. But the flavour…dear sweet lord, the flavour is unprecedented. My husband, who is not a huge fan of ice cream, said it was hands-down the best chocolate ice cream he’s ever tasted. The taste of malt was subtle, but definitely there; I’m thinking next time to add a fourth tablespoon as well as remember to stir it in during the custard-cooking process.

Actually, I’m thinking that next time may involve something with candied bacon. As well as waiting till I have a machine. I can feel my right arm relaxing already.

A Tale of Two Pies

I love pie.

More than any other treat, even chocolates, there’s nothing like a good piece of pie to make a bad day suddenly better. And put a good day completely over the top. Basically, there’s never a bad time for pie. But what often holds me back is the labour-intensiveness of the pie-making process. It was always so much easier to head into Kensington Market and grab a slice at Wanda’s Pie in the Sky. However, now that’s not really an option. Wanda’s is a bit too much of a trek.

Hot on the heels of my galette-baking success, and at the urging of my husband’s cravings, I decided to try my hand at hand at two favourites yesterday afternoon. First, my husband’s pie of choice: Pecan

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I used my grandmother’s recipe from the beloved Women’s Institute cookbook, but with a couple of tweaks to try to make my own mark on it.

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I replaced the white sugar with dark brown sugar, which I tend to do with most recipes because I’m not a huge fan of white sugar. Too gritty, and nowhere near the same depth of flavour you get with the darker varieties. Also, I used a regular corn syrup instead of the light syrup the recipe called for. I wanted that super-gooey, dark dense filling that – to me, anyways – is the mark of a proper pecan pie. It worked well, if I do say so myself.

The next pie was a bit of a challenge for myself. And therefore, much more terrifying. In every diner I eat at, I well order a piece of it if I see it on the menu. To me, it’s perfection on a plate. I give you my favourite pie: Coconut Cream

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It was nerve-racking, to be sure. But I got through it in the end, thanks mainly to this excellent recipe here. The pie crust recipe, which happily yields two disks of lovely dough, is remarkably easy to make. And for the most part I kept to the recipe. But it wouldn’t be me to not put my own spin on it. For the custard filling, I swapped out two cups of whole milk for coconut milk, which gave me the distinctive coconut flavour I was hoping for. Next time, I might even substitute coconut milk for all three cups of milk. As for the whipped cream topping, I opted for 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract because the custard was quite rich on its own and I didn’t want anything to compete with that coconut flavour. That’s the basis on which I judge a good coconut cream – by how much actual coconut flavour is involved. Some pies that I’ve had in the past are too eggy or may as well be vanilla pie, save for the sprinkling of toasted coconut on top. Which brings me to my last substitution: I went for untoasted, unsweetened coconut overtop the whipped topping in place of the more traditional toasted. Aesthetically, I find it more pleasing. Like fluffy white clouds against a clear blue sky, or freshly fallen snow.

And now that I’m waxing all poetic about pie, I think that it’s time to wrap this up. Besides, I’m feeling so good about yesterday’s victory in the kitchen that I just might use the leftover egg whites to take another crack at my arch sweet-making nemesis: the Macaron.