Tag Archive | "coffee"

Get Out Your Wooden Spoon and Whip Up Some Coffee Ice Cream

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

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A Retro Super Bowl Party

The first Super Bowl was held back in 1967, when the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs. The game, referred to some back then as “the Supergame,” was not the major party day that it is now. But what would the host with the most have served guests back then?

I hauled out my copy of “The New York Times Menu Cookbook,” which appeared a few months before the game. Those who partied by the rules set forth by its author, Craig Claiborne, would have had a “Lunch for a Football Game” menu already planned.

All they would have had to do was assemble the ingredients for the following:

It’s interesting how much of the menu has stayed the same. Ham and cheese subs, carrot sticks and, of course, beer are still with us. Beans are often a big part of the party for people, though they’re found in chili and not a soup. (Yes, Texans, people not from the Lone Star State often muck up their chili with beans. It’s a sad fact, but true.)

Yet, when was the last time you saw raw fennel strips on a vegetable tray? Sounds good to me. It’s crunchy, has a delicate licorice flavor and adds a nice complement to the radishes, carrots, celery and whatever else you’re serving.

Equally good is a mixture of 1/2 cup butter and 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard to create the wonderful sandwich spread known as Mustard Butter.

For the Egg and Tomato Hero, simply butter rye bread, then cover with thin slices of hard-cooked egg. Top with thin slices of tomato, freshly grated horseradish and lettuce. Great vegetarian treat, if you can find ripe tomatoes this time of year.

If that’s not enough for your buffet, you could add another did from Claiborne’s collection. It’s for cold Chili Fried Chicken, which you can make the night before.

Don’t go entirely retro, though. Would any of us swap today’s flat-screen TV for a tiny black-and-white model from the late 1960s? And don’t get me started on the coffee. The beer, too, is better, thanks to the wealth of microbreweries today.

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The World’s Largest Free Breakfast Friday

Friday marks the annual return of the Cowboy Breakfast, an unofficial start of the rodeo season in San Antonio.

This year, the free breakfast runs from 4:30 to 9 a.m. at Cowboys Dancehall, 3030 N.E. Loop 410 near the Perrin Beitel exit. This is the latest location for the event, which has been held at places such as the Rim off I-10 and at Northstar Mall in the past.

The event, listed in the Guinness World Records as the largest free breakfast in the world, is sponsored each year by the Cowboy Breakfast Foundation, which raises scholarship funds distributed within the community.

Free coffee and breakfast are offered while numerous bands play in the background, helping warm up the usually chilly morning. (KENS 5 predicts the weather will be “cold, windy and wet” with showers likely and a low of about 38 degrees.)

The menu generally includes breakfast tacos, biscuits and gravy, tamales and more. But it’s San Antonio’s willingness to party at any hour of the day that makes the event so much fun.

See you there, rain or, well, not shine.

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WalkerSpeak: Hey, Barista, Bring That Latte Over Here

coffeeMany of us have found ourselves  in the waiting room of a doctor’s or dentist’s office, forced to listen to daytime television at its loudest. Be it the History Channel or Fox News Channel, it’s just something we have to endure from time to time.

It was because I was entrapped, though, that I heard something that really surprised me. I was trying not to listen to the three celebrities chattering on a morning talk show, when I heard one use the term “barista”, causing the other two women at the table to stare blankly at her.

“What’s a barista?” said one of her co-stars, an actress and comedienne of no small reputation. Another, a longtime national news personality, chimed in that she, too, had no idea what that word meant.

I was amazed. I thought that word would certainly have entered the vernacular by the time Starbucks put up store No. 10,000 in the United States.

For those of you who don’t want to be caught out on a nationally broadcast morning talk show, “barista” is the word we in the U.S. use for the person who brews up your half-and-half skinny latte at the espresso shop. In some cases, the word might be used for someone with special skills at making espresso or cappuccino, as a sommelier’s skills and duties extend beyond those of a wine server.

This word is borrowed from the Italian language, Wikipedia tells us (though we may have already guessed).  It generally refers to someone who works behind a counter serving hot and cold drinks, such as a bartender. In Italian, the word isn’t used specifically for someone who makes and serves coffee. Also, while the word as used in English ends in an “a” it is correct for both for males and females.

Also, remember that a “barrister” has nothing to do with coffee, unless she’s telling her assistant to bring her some. Barrister is another word for attorney.

Starbucks, some numbers

Since we brought up Starbucks, you might wonder if the company has, in fact, 10,000 stores in the U.S.  It has more than 11,000 stores, according to the company website.

From the factsheet at, here are some numbers:

  • Starbucks has stores in 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.
  • 7,087 of these stores are operated by the company.
  • 4,081 stores are licensed.
  • 43 countries outside the United States have Starbucks stores.

During 2006, the store had:

  • Provided 4.9 million hours of training for store partners.
  • Donated $36.1 million in cash and products.
  • Volunteered 383,000 hours in communities through a Starbucks volunteer program, Make Your Mark.

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The Scoop on Three Premium Ice Creams

gourmeticecream4All week we’ve run recipes for ice creams that you can make at home, with flavors ranging from comforting chocolate to burning ginger. We’ve added a few more to today’s page as well. But let’s face it, not every one of you can or will try any of the recipes. Not every pint in the six gallons of ice cream that each American consumes on average each year will be homemade. Many of you prefer the old-fashioned method of saving time by picking up a pint or two of your favorites from your local grocer.

Is there really a difference between homemade and store-bought? Sure. Many of the packaged ice creams are filled with preservatives and stabilizers that affect flavor and texture alike. But the differences are gradually disappearing, thanks to the strength of the premium ice cream market and the number of organic varieties you can now find.

To help you find the best of the newer brands, we opted for a taste test of three labels. What a sacrifice it turned out to be, as we labored with our spoons digging deeply into each pint repeatedly in order to make sure we had discerned just what made these ice creams worthy of the premium label.

gourmeticecream1We’ll start with the Central Market Organics Strawberry ($3.49). All of the ingredients, down to the sugar and cream, were listed as organic on the label. The flavor was bright and bold, with a jammy texture that, once again, the label informed us was because strawberry jam had been used. In other words, you taste what you get, and you don’t taste any additives. If strawberries and cream are what you’re after, you probably won’t find a better representative of this simple treat. A minor complaint: You do notice the gummy texture of the guar gum, which is added to prevent ice crystals from forming.

Starbucks has entered the ice cream field, offering frozen versions of your favorite drinks. The flavors range from the enticing Caramel Macchiato($2.50) to the more simple Coffee ($2.50), which is what we tried. Think of a strong, frosty cup of joe with cream and sugar and you’ll have a good idea of what’s in store for you. Again, a touch of guar gum is noticeable on the palate.

We have saved the best for last: Haagen-Dazs five’s Vanilla Bean ($2.99). The lower-case five refers to only five ingredients in the ice cream, in this case eggs, milk, cream, sugar and, you guessed it, vanilla bean. That’s it. That’s what made it the best in terms of flavor, and it’s what will keep us on the lookout for the other flavors, including passion fruit, milk chocolate and ginger. The slight drawback here is that, without the guar gum as stabilizer, it melted much quicker than the other ice creams, so you may want to finish off the whole pint rather than let ice crystals form.


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