I remember my mother using the same wooden spoons day in and day out in her baking or in general home cooking. They were all-purpose tools that she would use to stir the fruit for a pie filling or a beef stew. They would scrape bowls clean. They would withstand heat or cold. They were also used to measure ingredients, as she knew just how shortening or sugar much would fit at the end of the spoon.
I don’t know what wood those spoons were made from, but I do know they were indestructible. Mom still uses them decades later, preferring them to some of the silicone tools she’s been given in recent years.
Celebrated chef Thomas Keller seems to know the same secret. He recommends using a wooden spoon to stir up the custard for this decadent coffee ice cream.
Coffee Ice Cream
3 tablespoons coffee beans
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided use
10 large egg yolks
Pinch of kosher salt
Using the bottom of a heavy pot or a rolling pin, lightly crush the coffee beans, splitting each one into 2 or 3 pieces. Pour the milk and cream into a large sauce pan, add the coffee beans and 1/2 cup of the sugar, and bring to just under a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar; a skin will form on top and the liquid should just begin to bubble. Remove the pan from the heat and let steep, uncovered for 1 hour.
Return the pan to the heat and heat until the milk is just below a simmer.
Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar and the yolks in a bowl until slightly thickened and the whisk leaves a trail. Slowly, while whisking, add about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture to the yolks, then whisk in the remaining milk mixture. Set a fine-mesh basket strainer over a clean saucepan and strain the liquid into the pan; discard the coffee beans.
Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Set a medium bowl in the ice bath have a strainer ready.
Put the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom and sides often with a wooden spoon, until steam begins to rise from the surface and the custard thickens enough to coat the spoon. Strain into the bowl, add the salt and let cool, stirring from time to time.
Refrigerate until cold or, preferably, overnight.
Pour the custard into an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When the texture is “soft serve,” transfer to a storage container and freeze to harden. (The ice cream is best eaten within a day, but can be made several days ahead.)
Makes a generous 1 quart.
From “Ad Hoc at Home” by Thomas Keller