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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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Summer Means Peach Ice Cream


When I was growing up, my family would make ice cream the old-fashioned way, with me freezing my tail as I sat on the ice cream maker while my parents and sisters would take turns cranking the handle. The flavor was always the same: peach. It was— and is—my dad’s favorite. It’s become one of mine, too, as the years have past and I have gotten my hands on fresh peaches, especially those from Fredericksburg.

I now have an electric ice cream maker that spins up a quart in about 20 minutes. And Fresh Peach Ice Cream is a perfect treat. Gild the lily some and put a scoop of this on top of a peach-blackberry cobbler or a strawberry-peach pie.

Fresh Peach Ice Cream

2 cups peeled and finely chopped ripe peaches
1/2 cup sugar, divided use
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream, divided use
4 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or hazelnut extract

Place the peaches in a large, heavy saucepan, Add 1/4 cup of the sugar and the corn syrup and place over medium heat. Stir until the sugar melts and the peaches are heated through, about 4 minutes. Pour into a large bowl and set aside. Add the half-and-half and 1/2 cup of the cream to the same saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat.

In a metal bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining sugar until blended. Form a kitchen towel into a ring and place the bowl on top to prevent it from moving. Gradually pour the hot half-and-half mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring slowly and continuously with a wooden spatula, until the custard thickens and leaves a path on the back of the spatula when a finger is drawn across it, about 5 minutes; do not allow to boil.

Pour the custard through a medium-mesh sieve into the peach mixture. Transfer three-fourths of the peach mixture to a food processor fitted with the metal blade or to a blender and purée until smooth. Pour the purée back into the remaining peach mixture. Add the vanilla and remaining 1/2 cup of cream and whisk to blend. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

Transfer the peach mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a container; cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours or for up to 3 days.

Makes about 5 cups.

From “Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library: Ice Creams & Sorbets”

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Peppermint Bark: Experimenting OK, But It’s Best As Is


PeppermintBark1

Peppermint bark didn’t really cross my radar until about four years ago. I ordered some to send to my father for Christmas but made a fatal mistake. I tasted it first. He did get his peppermint bark, but it was on Christmas the following year.

PeppermintBark2

Time to make peppermint bark. All the ingredients ready to go. Click image for recipe.

Now, it seems that peppermint bark is everywhere. While my SavorSA colleagues Nick and Kristina Mistry are trying their hand at making the candy this year, I  picked up a tub of it at Costco for $10. I also noticed World Market selling tins of peppermint bark for the same price.

I planned to make multiple uses of it. First, to have some myself.  Then, to put it along with the cookies and gingerbread in gift baskets, and finally to experiment and see if I could make some other treats with it.

My experiments turned out to be edible, but somewhat less than satisfactory.

The first thing I made was peppermint bark hot chocolate.  I heated up a few big chunks of the bark along with a heaping tablespoon of Scharffen Berger unsweetened cocoa and another tablespoon of sugar in a double boiler, along with a little milk. When the chocolate had melted, I poured in more hot milk and brought it to a simmer. It was good, but I think that hot chocolate with really good chocolate, all by itself, tastes better.

Peppermint bark ice cream sounded good. It was just a matter of chopping up the peppermint bark into small chunks, then stirring it into slightly softened vanilla bean ice cream and refreezing it. I sampled it the next day with high hopes. The frozen bark was mighty hard on the teeth and my thought was that, really, I’d rather have had the plain vanilla ice cream with some peppermint bark on the side.

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Peppermint Bark Chip Cookies. Click image for recipe.

Of  the three experiments, the Peppermint Bark Chip Cookies turned out somewhat better. White chocolate, dark chocolate and peppermint in a cloak of Toll House cookie dough would seem a good thing.  In practice, though, the cookies melted out too thin and flat for my taste.  I like them a little thick in the center and moist, only flattening out toward the edges with some crispness.

My guess would be the oils in the chocolate might have been the culprit. And it’s possible we need to give that little chocolate chip more respect — it was designed carefully to melt in a cookie just right. And peppermint bark is best just as it is.

(photos, top & middle: Nicholas Mistry,  cookies: Bonnie Walker)

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Tap Exchange: Beers for All Tastes – and Food, Too


TapExchange5I headed out to the Tap Exchange Alehouse &  Grill last Saturday to watch McAllister Park in the Little League World Series game. The rain delays kept me from seeing the game, but I left with a good feeling about the restaurant.

Any place with that many India pale ales on the menu – not to mention the stouts, pilsners, porters, weissens and amber ales – gets a thumbs up from me. I love the bitter, floral hoppiness of IPAs and could easily drink my way through the dozen or so offered – as long as someone else was driving and I didn’t care what I felt like the next day. The whole list includes more than 60 beers on tap and 50 by the bottle. There’s also a list of beer-based cocktails that go well beyond the beloved black and tan. There’s a good wine list, too, for variety.

Food: 2.5
Service: 3.0
Value: 2.5

Rating scale:
5: Extraordinary
4: Excellent
3: Good
2: Fair
1: Poor

But it was beer I wanted, so I started with a Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale, which had a happy hoppiness about it that made me sink back into my chair and forget all about rain delays and the rest of the afternoon. My Patty Melt made me perk up even more, thanks to a winning combination of grilled onions, melted Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing on toasted rye. Oh, yeah, there was a burger tucked in there, too, but more on that later.

TapExchange4A bright, fresh side salad with the house vinaigrette made was equally good.

A Green Flash IPA from the tap added plenty of citrus notes to the beer’s floral nature, which was just fine with me because, by the time I ordered the second beer, I was ready for a snack. I opted for the hot wings with the habanero sauce, which wasn’t too hot but had a lot of fruit flavor. The spiciness of the sauce seemed to come more from black pepper, but they were still good and meaty, just what you’d expect from a beer hall like this.

I made it back there Monday night with friends, who were a bit flummoxed at all the beer choices available. Thankfully, our waitress was extremely helpful. She approached the topic the way a good wine steward does, and after a few short questions, she had the right beers chosen for both. A fruit Michelob Ultra Pomegranate-Raspberry for one, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout for the other. I opted for hops again and chose Victory Wild Devil IPA, again with plenty of citrus notes to balance the pleasant bitterness.

We each found something to like when we paired the brews with thick-cut fried pickles and a trio plate of breaded jalapeño slices, mushrooms and Buffalo-style cheese sticks. Fried food all, but the quality, unfortunately, was not equal. The cheese sticks were oddly bland next to the rest of the goodies, which disappeared quickly.

TapExchange3Our sandwiches varied from good to mediocre. Top honor went to a custom burger made with a large portobello mushroom instead of beef. Ripe avocado and cheese made it even more enjoyable. A Black & Bleu Wrap with steak strips and blue cheese also made a good impression, though the tortilla wrap itself was on the cardboard side in terms of texture and lack of taste.

On the Ortega burger drew yawns. The mild green chile aioli the menu referred to was really a shrinking violet, adding no flavor. A slightly sweet, slightly stale bun didn’t help. But worst of all was the preformed burger patty, lifeless and dull – and not all that hot. The ripe avocado was about the only saving grace of the whole sandwich. (If you can made your own sauce for the ziti and your own soups each day, spend the time to form your own patties and don’t freeze the meat. You’ll do better in the long-run for taking the extra step.)

But my friend got over her disappointment by ordering the homemade ice cream. We all loved the chalky, gritty texture of the cocoa powder in the chocolate ice cream, which also had small chunks of chocolate for added flavor. (And, yes, it pairs nicely with Double Chocolate Stout.) The vanilla could have used a little more vanilla; what we had was more like sweet cream, which certainly wasn’t bad.

In the end, though, it’s beer, not ice cream, that will get people into Tap Exchange. (And apparently the promise of kids eating free on Mondays will, too, as there were many families that night.) I’ve already got my next IPAs picked out.

TapExchange2TapExchange1

Tap Exchange
22250 Bulverde Road at Evans Road
(210) 396-7917
Lunch and dinner daily.
$-$$

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Great Ice Cream Is Close to Home


icecreamsummary

San Antonio has plenty of parlors with premium ice creams for every taste. Here are a few worth investigating. Those with sugar-free or no-sugar-added options are marked with an asterisk (*):

  • Amy’s Ice Cream in the Quarry, 255 E. Basse Road, (210) 832-8886 (*)
  • Anne’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream, Ingram Mall, 6301 N.W. Loop 410, (210) 684-9663
  • Baskin-Robbins, various locations (*)
  • Ben & Jerry’s, 111 W. Crockett St., (210) 220-3770; Fiesta Texas, 17000 I-10 W., (210) 697-5050
  • Brindles Awesome Ice Creams, 11255 Huebner Road, (210) 641-5222 (*)
  • Cold Stone Creamery, various locations (*)
  • Da Vinci Gelato & Cafe, 18270 Stone Oak Parkway, (210) 545-6686 (*)
  • Justin’s Ice Cream, 510 River Walk
  • Haagen-Dazs, 207 Lasoya St.,  (210) 226-2006; Menger Hotel, Alamo Plaza, Suite 214, (210) 226-2266; North Star Mall, 7400 San Pedro Ave.,  (210) 341-2006
  • Marble Slab Creamery, various locations (*)
  • Mr. Ice Cream, 423 E. Commerce St., (210) 224-5749 (*)
  • Paciugo Gelato, 999 E. Basse Road, (210) 832-8820; 22706 U.S. 281 N., (210) 590-5440

If your favorite place is missing, please post it below.

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Off-the-Wall Ice Creams Offer Taste Thrills


milkbaconicecream-590It’s true, vanilla ice cream remains the most popular flavor there is. But don’t you just want to veer off course every once in a while and try something different?

With that in mind, we offer three ice creams that would fit the Monty Python billing: And now for something completely different …

We’re talking a whole new ABCs: avocado, beets and candied bacon.

And we’re not joking. They come from three celebrated chefs: TV star Alton Brown, French Laundry mastermind Thomas Keller and pastry chef extraordinaire David Lebovitz. So, if you’re adventurous, give them a try and enjoy.

Avocado Ice Cream

Avocados are a fruit, something that we in San Antonio often forget. But in the Philippines, avocados are only served sweet. With that in mind, try this Alton Brown recipe, which celebrates the creamy, fruity nature of avocados.

12 ounces avocado meat, approximately 3 small to medium
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream

Peel and pit the avocados. Add the avocados, lemon juice, milk, and sugar to a blender and purée. Transfer the mixture to a medium mixing bowl, add the heavy cream and whisk to combine. Place the mixture into the refrigerator and chill until it reaches 40 degrees or below, approximately 4 to 6 hours.

Process the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. However, this mixture sets up very fast, so count on it taking only 5 to 10 minutes to process. For soft ice cream, serve immediately. If desired, place in freezer for 3 to 4 hours for firmer texture.

Makes 1 quart.

From Alton Brown/Food Network

Candied Bacon Ice Cream

Pastry chef and blogger David Lebovitz, author of “The Perfect Scoop,” offers this whimsical ice cream, perfect for all of us who cannot get enough bacon in our diet. He offers a few variations on his website: “Like my butcher, I loved the salty taste of bacon with brown sugar, but I’m also going to be folding bits of (candied) bacon into Coffee Ice Cream in the future. Or maybe get really crazy and try little bits in a batch of Avocado Ice Cream.”

For the candied bacon:
5 strips bacon
About 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

For the ice cream custard:
3 tablespoons salted butter
¾ cup (packed) brown sugar, light or dark (you can use either)
2 ¾ cups half-and-half, divided use
5 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons dark rum or whiskey
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional

To candy the bacon, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Lay the strips of bacon on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or aluminum foil, shiny side down.

Sprinkle 1 ½-2 teaspoons of brown sugar evenly over each strip of bacon, depending on length.

Bake for 12-16 minutes. Midway during baking, flip the bacon strips over and drag them through the dark, syrupy liquid that’s collected on the baking sheet. Continue to bake until as dark as mahogany. Remove from oven and cool the strips on a wire rack.

Once crisp and cool, chop into little pieces, about the size of grains of rice. (Bacon bits can be stored in an airtight container and chilled for a day or so, or stored in the freezer a few weeks ahead.)

To make the ice cream custard, melt the butter in a heavy, medium-size saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar and half of the half-and-half. Pour the remaining half-and-half into a bowl set in an ice bath and set a mesh strainer over the top.

In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the warm brown sugar mixture to them, whisking the yolks constantly as you pour. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.

Cook over low to moderate heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

Strain the custard into the half-and-half, stirring over the ice bath, until cool. Add liquor, vanilla and cinnamon, if using.

Refrigerate the mixture. Once thoroughly chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the bacon bits during the last moment of churning, or stir them in when you remove the ice cream from the machine.

From David Lebovitz

Red Beet Ice Cream

French Laundry chef Thomas Keller serves this ice cream with chocolate cakes and walnut sauce.

2 pounds red beets, peeled and quartered
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar, divided use
8 large egg yolks

Put the beets through a vegetable juicer, reserving the pulp. You should have about 2 cups of juice. Place the juice in a saucepan and reduce over low heat, skimming, as necessary, to about 1/4 cup. Strain the liquid into a container, cover and place in the refrigerator.

In a saucepan, combine the reserved beet pulp with the cream and milk. Bring to a simmer, cover and remove from the heat for 30 minutes.

Strain the liquid and measure out 3 cups (discard the rest). Return it to the saucepan, add half the sugar and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

[amazon-product]1579651267[/amazon-product]Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until they have thickened slightly and lightened in color. Gradually whisk about one third of the hot liquid into the yolks to temper them. Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the custard has thickened and coats the back of the spoon. Pour the custard into a bowl and set in an ice-water bath and let cool.

Strain the cooled custard into a container, cover and refrigerate for a few hours until cold, or overnight (for the creamiest texture).

Stir the reduced beet juice into the custard and freeze in an ice cream machine. Remove the ice cream to a covered container and store in the freezer for about 2 hours or up to 2 days.

From “The French Laundry Cookbook” by Thomas Keller

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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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Ice Cream Without the Cream? Or Sugar? Sure Thing


icecreamEveryone loves ice cream. But not everyone can eat it.

For those who are lactose intolerant, ice cream may seem like a forbidden pleasure. But it doesn’t need to be. The top recipe is a chocolate-y treat that is cool and creamy, without the cream.

The second recipe is great for diabetics and for those who want to cut down on sugar.

Lactose Intolerant’s Delight

2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated goat’s milk
1 (6-ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup lactose-free milk

Place 2 cans of evaporated goat’s milk in the refrigerator for 2 hours to chill.

In a large bowl, combine the ingredients and whisk together until the sugar dissolves. Pour mixture into an ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions (approximately 25-30 min.).

Serve immediately or store in a air tight container in the freezer.

Makes 2 quarts.

From recipezaar.com.

Diabetic Homemade Ice Cream

13 ounces evaporated milk
2 tablespoons sugar substitute of choice (such as saccharine, Splenda or aspartame)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 eggs (well beaten)

Combine evaporated milk and sugar substitute. Beat well until sweetener is dissolved. Add whole milk and vanilla; beat well. Add eggs; beat eggs into milk mixture vigorously. Pour into ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Makes 8 servings.

From informationaboutdiabetes.com.

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A Rich, Peachy Treasure of an Ice Cream Recipe


Peach bowl ice creamPeaches and cream blended into a rich ice cream speak of summertime as much as do watermelon and vine-ripened tomatoes.

The fact that peaches are a big crop in the nearby Texas Hill Country localizes this recipe — especially if you went up and picked your own. We’re hoping that you picked enough to freeze or can and have some left to make this ice cream. If not, there are many other fresh peaches in the markets now.

In this recipe, you’ll want to use peaches that are truly, drippy ripe.  With all that juice and flavor in this delicately colored dessert, we don’t imagine any accompaniment or topping is needed. Unless you happen to have a few more fresh, ripe peaches on hand to slice over the top.

Peach Ice Cream

6 eggs, beaten (see note below)
3 ½ cup white sugar
10 fresh peaches, pitted and chopped
4 cups heavy cream
2 cups half and half
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
¾ teaspoons salt

Note: This recipe contains raw eggs. The very young, elderly, pregnant women or those in frail health should not eat raw eggs.

In large bowl, mix together eggs and sugar until smooth; purée peaches in blender or food processor and stir 5 cups of purée into egg mixture. Stir in cream, half-and-half, vanilla and salt and mix well.

Pour mixture into freezer canister of ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Source: Biggunner/Allrecipes.com

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This Week: Get the Scoop on Ice Cream at SavorSA


664567_21115825You’re no kid, but admit it — ice cream still does it for you. And vanilla bean, chocolate fudge, cajeta and caramel (just to name a few) might be just what you need to get through the rest of this relentless summer.

SavorSA will extend a helping hand this week with lots of cool features: ice cream and gelato recipes, plus tips on making ice cream if you are diabetic or lactose intolerant, 10 great (easy) ice cream-based desserts, a comparison tasting of new premium ice creams and more.  Also, we want you to share your favorite ice creams, styles, recipes or brands with other SavorSA readers.

Get your scoops ready.

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