Black Sesame Ice Cream

Do your Sundays fly by as fast as mine do? I just don’t know where the day went… and it doesn’t help that I live next to a church whose bell rings on the hour, every hour, reminding you exactly how fast the day is going. Ding, ding… it’s two o’clock already? Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. What??? Five o’clock? No way. I swear only 5 minutes passed between the time the bell struck six times and when it struck seven. It felt like that shot in an old black-and-white movie where the hour hand just flies around the clock to illustrate the passing of time. (Why doesn’t time fly like that during the work day?) On the very bright side, today I made black sesame ice cream.

I first encountered black sesame ice cream years ago at a dessert restaurant in NYC called Kyotofu and then consumed it on a frequent basis several years after that when I lived mere blocks away from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. It’s good stuff. It’s got a toasted, nutty flavor to it, not totally unlike peanut butter but I would even say better than. And I live on pb.

This ice cream is so good I daresay that if it were legal to marry ice cream in the state of Wisconsin I would march down to the county clerk and get myself a permit straight away. It’s that good. And I was afraid whatever I could make at home couldn’t live up to what I’ve had in the past, but you know what? It was even better. For reals. I can see this ice cream and I enjoying a lovely summer together…

Black Sesame Ice Cream (loosely adapted from “Black Sesame and Orange Ice Cream” found on www.seriouseats.com by Ethan Frisch and Max Falkowitz)

  • ¼ cup black sesame seeds
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Toast sesame seeds in small skillet, stirring frequently, until fragrant and nutty, then set aside to cool.

Transfer seeds to a blender and blend on high till seeds are crushed. (I don’t have a blender so used my coffee grinder to pulverize the seeds and then transferred them to a food processor for next step.) Add two to three tablespoons heavy cream and blend till smooth. Add remaining heavy cream and milk and blend on high till well combined, about two minutes. Seeds will not be completely pulverized, which is fine. Large chunks can always be strained out.

Combine egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat at medium-high speed until very thick and pale yellow, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk yolk and dairy mixtures in a heavy-bottomed three quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly while custard thickens. Custard is done when it coats the back of a spoon and a swiped finger leaves a clean line.

Remove from heat and pass mixture through a strainer into a medium mixing bowl set in an ice bath until chilled, stirring from time to time. Stir in sesame oil and salt till well combined. Freeze in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a plastic container to store.

camping classic, without having to sleep in a tent

Confession: I’ve never been a big fan of camping.  As a child I was a Campfire Girl and often had to go on camping trips with my troop where we made friendship bracelets, went on nature hikes, and had to sing songs, yes, around a campfire.  All I really remember is always feeling cold and damp and once burning my hand on the wrong end of a metal fire-poking stick.  Not fun.

I like nature and everything, I’m just not sure I like sleeping out in it in a tent on the cold ground, feeling every root and rock beneath me as I toss and turn all night.  No thanks.

However, there is one thing camping really does have going for it: s’mores.  There’s nothing quite like a marshmallow toasted on a stick over some hot coals and then packed between chocolate and graham crackers.  It’s one of life’s simple pleasures that you enjoy no matter how far from Campfire Girl days you are.

These bars recreate that feeling.  And you don’t have to sleep in a tent to enjoy them.  Score!

S’more Bars (from Taste of Home: Simple and Delicious magazine)

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 oz. of milk chocolate bars
  • 1 cup marshmallow cream

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and beat well.  Combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt.  Beat into creamed mixture, and set aside ½ cup of this mixture for the topping.

Press remaining mixture into an 8-inch baking pan.  Place candy bars over the crust in one single layer.  Spread marshmallow cream on top of candy bar layer.  Crumble remaining graham cracker/flour/butter mixture over top.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top.  Cool on a wire rack and cut into bars.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuit Topping

You might be thinking to yourself, another rhubarb recipe?  I hope you aren’t, but if you are I get it.  I have rhubarb coming out the wazoo right now so have been experimenting a lot with it lately.  I am also simultaneously trying to clear out my freezer of last year’s fruit to make room for this year’s and last June I did some serious strawberry-picking and thus still have it in abundance in my freezer.  So when I found another awesome-sounding recipe for a strawberry-rhubarb combination I knew it was meant to be.

This time I bring you a cobbler with a cornmeal biscuit topping.  The cornmeal topping made it a bit lighter than traditional cobblers so in turn I did not feel guilty eating it for breakfast and dessert in the same day.  I love it when that happens!

I hope everyone had a lovely Memorial Day weekend, relaxed with friends and family, and ate lots of good food.  I am still thinking about the various grilled and barbecued meats I consumed over the weekend.  They were all awesome but think I will be detoxing with lots of vegetables this week…

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuit Topping (recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

Filling

  •   ½ cup sugar
  •   2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  •   1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  •   2 12-ounce baskets strawberries, hulled, halved
  •   1 ½ cups ½ -inch-thick slices fresh or frozen rhubarb

Topping

  •   1 cup all-purpose flour
  •   1/3 cup sugar
  •   ¼ cup yellow cornmeal
  •   1 tablespoon baking powder
  •   1 teaspoon baking soda
  •   Pinch of salt
  •   3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced
  •   ½ cup low-fat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix sugar, flour and cloves in large bowl. Add strawberries and rhubarb and toss to coat with sugar mixture. Transfer filling to 10-inch-diameter glass pie dish

Mix flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.   Gradually add buttermilk, tossing with fork until moist clumps form (do not overmix). Spoon topping evenly over filling.

Bake until topping is golden brown and filling is tender, about 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

rhubarb crumb bars

I’m so glad it’s rhubarb season again.  Even though I had eaten rhubarb in various forms over the years last spring was the first time I ever prepared anything with it.  Rhubarb pie is awesome and rhubarb fool is not to shabby either.

This time I decided to try a rhubarb bar recipe and found one with a crumb topping from Martha.  Who doesn’t like a crumb topping?

This recipe has several dimensions.  The bottom layer is a sweet and moist cake, followed by the rhubarb layer, and then topped with the butter/flour/brown sugar crumb topping.  A major winner, and not complicated to assemble in the least.  Get to it!

Rhubarb Crumb Bars (from www.marthastewart.com)

For the Streusel

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus room-temperature butter for pan
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Cake

  • 1/2 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Butter and flour parchment and pan, tapping out excess flour.

Make streusel: Whisk together butter, brown sugar, and salt. Add flour and mix with a fork until large crumbs form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make cake: In a medium bowl, combine rhubarb, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup flour. In another medium bowl, whisk 3/4 cup flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs, one at a time. With mixer on low, beat in vanilla, then flour mixture. Spread batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle with rhubarb and top with streusel.

Bake cake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely in pan. Using paper overhang, lift cake from pan. Cut into 16 bars.

salty caramel ice cream

I love ice cream.  It has been my most favorite food ever since I was a kid and in fact one of the first things I remember wanting to be when I grew up was an owner of a Dairy Queen.  True story.  My very first job was at a Dairy-Queen-like place in my hometown and I can easily ramble off some of the best places to get ice cream across the country off the top of my head (Herrell’s in Northampton, MA, Cones in New York City, Shatila in Dearborn, MI, Babcock Dairy in Madison, WI, see?)  I would add Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream in Columbus, OH to this list only I have never actually been there.  If I ever find myself in Columbus you can bet I will be stopping by, but until then I plan to work my way through Jeni’s cookbook.  (Is it still called a “cookbook” when it’s all about ice cream?)

I decided to start with her Salty Caramel ice cream which is apparently her most popular flavor.  I am always a fan of salty and sweet together so dove in even though the first step is to burn raw sugar in a saucepan which I found slightly daunting.  I shouldn’t have.  It was easy!

Jeni’s recipes don’t involve egg yolks which was a first for me when making ice cream and suited me just fine since it is easy to start to cook the egg yolks while making the custard and that is no bueno.  No one wants a cooked egg bite when eating ice cream.  Yick.

This ice cream is divine.  You can taste the burnt sugar caramel-y goodness with the hint of the sea salt.  It is creamy and smooth and all the things you want ice cream to be.  It was also fantastic when paired with the gluten-free brownies I made earlier in the week– especially if you heat the brownies up a bit first!  Mmm…  Going for a jog now.

Salty Caramel Ice Cream (from “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home” by Jeni Britton Bauer)

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 ½ ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.

Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.

Mix the cream with the corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout.

Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Heat the sugar in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat until it is melted and golden amber in color.  Remove from the heat and, stirring constantly, slowly add a bit of the cream and corn syrup mixture to the caramel: it will fizzle, pop, and spurt.  Stir until well combined, then add a little more and stir.  Keep adding the cream a little at a time until all of it is incorporated.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the milk.  Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes.  Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.

Bring back to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.  If any caramel flecks remain, pour the mixture through a sieve.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the vanilla and whisk.  Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath.  Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Pour into frozen ice cream maker canister and spin until thick and creamy.

Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid.  Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

flourless chocolate cake

Ah, spring.  You have arrived!  Over the past week I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the overgrown bush outside my front door is in fact a lilac bush.  Nice!  I am going to trim it a bit this week so I can enjoy the lilac fragrance indoors.  (Don’t tell my landlord.)

In other spring news, I baked a flourless chocolate cake for you.

This recipe is so simple.  It can be made from scratch to finished product in 45 minutes.  And also its delicious.  And gluten-free!

If you are making this for a birthday, as I did, don’t expect it to be birthday cake-like.  We took to referring to it as the “brownie-cake.”  It is rather flat and is so rich that no frosting is required so does not resemble a typical cake but it will still knock the socks off of all who eat it.  I converted a few naysayers who were skeptical of gluten-free baking with this cake.  It’s magical.  Just like spring.

Flourless Chocolate Cake (recipe found at www.epicurious.com from Gourmet magazine, November 1997)

  • 4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper.

Chop chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate with butter, stirring, until smooth. Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs and whisk well. Sift 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate.

Dust cake with additional cocoa powder and serve with sorbet if desired. (Cake keeps, after being cooled completely, in an airtight container, 1 week.)

a taste of summer in what should be winter

Growing up peaches were always my favorite fruit.  I never thought about this before but it could partially be attributed to the fact that I was born in late summer and that is the peak season for peaches.  And with late summer and my birthday and peaches comes peach pie, which just happens to be one of my favorite kinds of pie.

I realize it’s not late summer right now, even though it feels that way in the upper Midwest.  It’s been at or near 80 degrees for the past week.  It’s nuts!  But it’s the good kind of nuts since normally we’re up to our eyeballs in snow this time of year and riddled with cabin fever.  No complaints about the unseasonably warm temps from this girl, no sir.

While there are “fresh” peaches at the grocery store right now, flown in from who-knows-where, I happen to be lucky enough to have a mother that buys them locally by the bushelful in August and then freezes them in perfectly-proportioned-for-pie-filling freezer bags.  And she shares these frozen fruit bags with me.  Score!

So in belated honor of Pi Day I thawed out some of those beautiful peaches and baked myself a gluten-free pie.  It tasted glorious, like late summer.

Peach Pie

Gluten-Free Dough (slightly adapted from recipe found in “Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free” by Karen Morgan)

  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • ¾ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons glutinous rice flour (Bob’s Red Mill Sweet White Rice Flour works just fine), plus more for dusting
  • ¼ cup sorghum flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons guar gum
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted cultured butter, diced
  • 3 eggs

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to blend.  Add the butter and beat until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.  Add the eggs and mix on high speed until the dough turns in on itself.  Turn out the dough onto a work surface that has been dusted with rice flour and knead for 3 turns.  Divide in half and form each half into a disk.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Remove both disks from the refrigerator 15 minutes before rolling out.  Dust the work surface again with rice flour and roll out one disk to a 14-inch round.  Gingerly transfer the rolled dough to a 12-inch deep-dish pie pan, fitting the dough into the pan and being cautious not to tear the dough, as it is delicate.  (If you do tear the dough, just join the tear together and brush the tear with water; smooth with your finger until the damage is no longer visible.)

Roll out the second disk of dough to a 14-inch round, adding additional rice flour, if needed.  Set aside.

Peach Filling (adapted slightly from “Betty Crocker’s Cookbook”)

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • ¼ cup ground cinnamon
  • 6 cups sliced peaches (6 to 8 medium)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon together.  Add peaches and toss.  Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Add pie filling to pie pan fitted with bottom crust.  Place reserved top crust over the top of the filling.  Crimp edges of pie crusts together until sealed.  Slice vents in top of pie crust.  Brush with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Place in pre-heated oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Wrap edges of crust with aluminum foil if they brown too quickly.

Let pie cool for 2 hours before eating.