Monday, April 22, 2024

Ice Cream Recipe Review: Rose Levy Beranbaum's Strawberry Ice Cream

  “Strawberry Ice Cream” on page 55 of Rose's Ice Cream Bliss by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

  • The online recipe can be found here. (see below for instructions for using fresh or frozen strawberries rather than puree).
  • My other strawberry ice cream reviews can be found here.

This flavor is a challenge, I admit. Strawberries, being the wateriest of fruits, can make it difficult to achieve a smooth texture. Many churners resort to making strawberries-and-cream styles (vanilla ice cream with ribbons of strawberry jam), or they use less strawberry puree, resulting in more dilute flavor. My own recipe from 15 years ago has a wonderful flavor, but when frozen hard, it gets a little icy.

This recipe, while very very good, didn't result in as intensely strawberry flavor as I'd like. I know that fresh strawberry ice cream can be pure manna, so I plan to persevere until I've got a more intensely-flavored, silky-smooth strawberry ice cream. 

Substitutions and Techniques:

  • Turbinado sugar instead of white sugar (always), as I prefer the flavor.
  • The online recipe is a variation that uses commercially-made puree.  If you are using frozen/fresh strawberries, here's what you should do instead:
    • Freeze 20 ounces of strawberries (if using fresh strawberries only). 
    • Place frozen strawberries in a colander over a bowl and let thaw (several hours at room temp, a couple of days in the fridge). 
    • Stir the berries and gently press until you have about 7 tbsp or 1/2 cup of juice collected in the bowl 
    • Place the strawberry juice, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 2 tsp of lemon juice in a large glass 4-cup measuring cup (you MUST use at least this size of cup for the next step to prevent boil-overs).
    • Cook the juice in the microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after every 30-second blast.  Repeat until it has reduced to about 1/4 of the original volume. It will be thick and a little syrupy.
    • Puree the pulp from the strawberries and combine it with the cooked strawberry syrup.
    • Follow the online recipe as written, using your homemade sweetened strawberry puree in place of the commercial puree. Don't add additional lemon juice - it's already in the puree that you made.
  • I omitted the drops of strawberry essence called for in the original recipe (it's not listed in the online version).
  • Because my strawberry syrup amount was off and I used all of the sweetened puree (slightly more than the recipe calls for), I added 1 tbsp of milk powder to the custard. I probably shouldn't have done that, as now I don't know how it would have turned out without it.
  • I just mashed the strawberry pulp instead of pureeing it in a food processor. I probably should have pureed it. 
  • I used tapioca starch instead of cornstarch at a 1:1 substitution. I stirred the milk/starch slurry into the custard just after removing it from the heat.
  • I used glucose.


  • Same day: Soft-serve texture is good, and the flavor is nicely strawberry-ish. I'd like it to be stronger yet, though.
  • Next day: This is wonderfully scoop-able, even hard-frozen. I'm not sure if it's due to the mashing (instead of pureeing), but I can detect the strawberry seeds, something I don't recall from previous batches of this flavor. But it's far smoother than the recipe I developed 15 years ago.  The flavor is still very good.    


  • I left it plain, but I think a ribbon of strawberry sauce/ripple or macerated strawberry compote would be delicious and intensify the flavor nicely.
  • Topping it with chocolate sauce or adding chocolate or toasted white-chocolate stracciatella to the ice cream would be yummy.
  • Maybe stir in some sort of candied graham crackers to add crunch and suggest a strawberry pie?

Monday, April 15, 2024

Ice Cream Recipe Review: Fany Gerson's Chocolate Ice Cream with Peanut Marzipan

"Chocolate Ice Cream with Peanut Marzipan" on page 99 of  Mexican Ice Cream: Beloved Recipes and Stories by Fany Gerson.

  • I couldn't find this one online; I included an adapted version below. 
  • My other chocolate ice cream reviews can be found here.

This ice cream tastes like a cross between a flourless chocolate cake and a Reese's peanut butter cup.  It's decadent and delicious.  

You'll either need to buy or make peanut mazapán, a Mexican candy made with only two ingredients: roasted peanuts and powdered sugar.  

This is actually the second time I've made it - I screwed it up the first time. I was experimenting with a new technique of adding all the ingredients at once, then cooking until the custard thickens, but what I didn't know is that in order to thicken the custard, the egg yolks need to reach a much higher temperature than chocolate can handle, and I wound up with seized chocolate (flavor was still good, but the ice cream was grainy - like eating chocolate sand).  The fats were also not properly emulsified which made the ice cream VERY hard, but also also had an odd texture: kind of dry and crumbly.  

So this time, I put all ingredients except the chocolate and cocoa into the pan, cooked it until the custard thickened, removed it from the heat, and then let it cool down to below 120F/49C before adding the chocolate. That technique worked fine, and I wound up with delicious ice cream that was decidedly non-grainy. 

So, learn from my mistake, and don't heat your chocolate up beyond the temperature needed to melt it. 


  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) of chopped/crumbled mazapán peanut candy
  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk (530 ml)
  • 3/4 cups heavy cream (175 ml)
  • 1/2 cup sugar  (100 grams)
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7.5 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chips or finely chopped bars (210 grams)
  • 3 1/2 tbsp of high-quality dutch-process cocoa (53 ml)
  • 2 tsp Mexican cinnamon (optional)


  1. Chop or crumble the mazapán (aim for pieces about the size of chocolate chips), and place in the refrigerator or freezer.
  2. Place all ingredients except the chocolate and cocoa into a pan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until it begins to thicken (about 165F/74C). 
  3. Remove from heat and let sit for about 30 minutes.
  4. Add the chocolate to the custard and stir until melted and fully incorporated. If you let the custard get too cool, turn the heat on low and stir constantly until chocolate melts. Remove from heat immediately. 
  5. Chill custard in ice water (place pan in a bowl of ice water) for 30-60 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill fully.
  6. Churn.
  7. Stir mazapán into the soft ice cream, serve, or transfer to freezer to harden fully.
  • The temperature of the custard needs to drop to about about 110F/43C before you add the chocolate (it MUST be below 120F/49C, otherwise the chocolate will seize, rendering the product grainy, like chocolate sand). I found that it took about 20 minutes to cool enough, but the time will vary based on ambient temperatures.
  • You need to locate a source of good quality dutch-process cocoa, that is finely ground enough to ensure it melts/dissolves fully. Low-quality cocoa that hasn't dissolved will leave the ice cream tasting powdery.  I like Lake Champlain Cocoa.

Substitutions and Techniques:

  • Turbinado sugar instead of white sugar (always) as I prefer the flavor.
  • I added 1/8 cup of glucose to help smooth the ice cream (it's a non-sweet ice cream). I think I should have added another 1/8 cup.
  • The original recipe has you heat the dairy with half the sugar and when the sugar has melted, temper a mixture of egg/remaining sugar/salt/cocoa mixture. Cook until thick, then strain the custard into the chocolate and stir to melt/incorporate. I didn't do it that way.
  • I didn't include the cinnamon. I don't like it in chocolate (or coffee for that matter).


  • Same day: Ohmygod.  Delicious.  
  • Next day: Ice cream is still much harder and less smooth than many other recipes when frozen hard, but the chocolate ice cream flavor is one of the best I've tried. It's obviously made right this time and the texture is definitely not wrong.  This ice cream is very addictive, and very rich.
  • I want to figure out how to make this a little smoother/softer, while preserving that wonderful flavor.  
  • It's also a little too salty - most recipes call for a pinch on the light end, and up to 1/4-1/2 tsp on the salty end for a recipe. This one calls for a full teaspoon. I think the salt should be cut at least in half.


  • This one is too rich and delicious for additional toppings and stands alone.

Friday, April 12, 2024

1946: Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: How I connect to Cary Elwes (or King George VI)

  1. My grandfather is Arthur Lubinski.
  2. Grandpa had a brother named Paul.
  3. The head of the SOE recommended Paul for commendation for bravery in 1946 for events in the spring of 1945.
  4. King George VI approved the King's Commendation for Brave Conduct medal to my uncle, and it was presented to Paul in 1948.

... and 76 year later ...

  1. Cary Elwes plays the head of the SOE in an upcoming movie

The upcoming movie is The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, directed by Guy Richie and stars Henry Cavill. It's a movie version of the SOE's Operation Postmaster (link at the end, but warning - spoilers).  Anyway at the 4 second mark in the preview below, Cary Elwes says, "Gus March-Phillips, I have a mission I want you to lead."  

Here's the character, so you can get more than a short glimpse of him:

Cary Elwes as Brigadier Gubbins

IMDb states that Elwes's character is named Brigadier Gubbins "M." it turns out, that's Major-General Colin McVean Gubbins, the head of the SOE.  This guy:

The real Colin Gubbins.

I don't know if Uncle Paul knew Major-General Gubbins personally or not, but in 1946, Gubbins did sign the paperwork recommending Paul for the commendation for bravery (click on the next two images to enlarge):

And in 1948, the British ambassador to Belgium awarded the medal to my uncle on behalf of King George VI:

Amusingly, the award ceremony took place on April Fools' Day, 1948. 

Monday, April 8, 2024

Movie Review: the various Predator movies

    Ok, I admit it. I find the Predator movies to be something of a guilty pleasure.  I don't generally like horror movies, and I'm annoyed by the wildly overused space-aliens-are-automatically-malevolent trope, so my liking these silly B-movies is probably uncharacteristic.

    I mean, if I'm going to watch malevolent aliens, the Aliens franchise is just wildly better.  Yet, I still like Predator. I think it's probably because it's a reenvisioning of the short story "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell, which I first read in high school English.  

    By the way - I've seen an authentic predator costume from one of the first two movies in person at a Planet Hollywood, I think when Chris and I were on our honeymoon.  Standing next to one, even behind glass? Yowza.  Pretty intimidating.  It stood about 2 feet taller than me.

    Anyway, I've gotten an idea for a short story of my own, so I've started watching the movies.  I'd only ever seen the first movie, so all of the sequels were new to me.

    Just for the sake of clarity, from this point forward, I'm going to be referring to the antagonist of these movies as "hunter," "predator" or the species name of "Yautja" (ya-OOT-cha), and not "alien." If I use the word alien, it's to refer to the xenomorphs from the Alien movie franchise (there are crossover movies, so keeping them separate is important).

Ratings follow each movie title, the number of stars out of four possible.

Predator (1987)***:

IMDb Link

This is the one that started them all. Campy, silly, a little scary (but only a little) and it features an off-worldly hunter that really is one ugly mother f----r.  Nearly everyone dies and the predator's clicking sound will forever cause shivers to go down my spine.  I will also never look at a glow stick the same way again.  The acting is merely OK, the jokes were awkward, the special effects were great for the time, but pretty crude nowadays (though still effective), but it was genuinely entertaining.    

Predator 2 (1990)**:

IMDb Link

Interestingly, this movie was released in 1990, but takes place in 1997, so technically it was (at the time) a near-future science fiction movie.  This movie suffered from too many villains (drug cartels and the Yautja, and a power-mad police captain), and the acting was mostly pretty bad and the oddly-dystopian LA didn't work as well as the jungles of central America as a setting.  I did love seeing Bill Paxton, though, and I learned that he is one of the few actors in the holy trinity of science fiction movie deaths: he's been killed by a predator, a xenomorph, and a terminator.  It was definitely not his best work though, and the costumes made me cringe (did we really dress like that in 1990??).  

I did like the ending, though, and seeing the other predators, and that xenomorph skull in the trophy case. So despite it being a worse movie, it added to the cannon in a way I really liked, establishing predator ethics (they don't kill the unarmed, nor apparently children, nor pregnant women). Now that said, with their technology, killing humans (even armed ones) is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel.

Alien vs. Predator "AVP" (2004)**:

IMDb Link

Like Predator 2, this one suffered from too many villains (multiple Aliens and predators and corporate interests), and this movie was made when it was stylish to make action sequences fast and hard to follow. Wait, which alien was that? Oh, was that Scar or one of the other Yautjas? I liked some of the ideas in this one - the badass predators actually enslaving an alien queen and keeping her frozen for millenia, and periodically thawing her long enough to lay some eggs and burst out of some human chests.  Though it does contradict the canon a little - This one takes place under the polar ice cap, but I thought predators liked the heat?  Not the worst of the movies, but not good either.  

... And another actor enters the holy trinity - Lance Henrikson gets killed by all three SF baddies.  Another example of predator ethics - it initially refuses to kill Henrikson's character because he's sick.  I also liked seeing the alien chest-burster with predator-features, and the teaming-up of humans and predators.

Alien vs. Predator: Requiem "AVPR" (2007)*:

IMDb Link

By far the worst of the movies.  It did feature the predator-like alien that burst out of the predator at the end of the previous movie, but I think that's the only thing I liked about it.  It's another one that had too many villains. 

It also violated some horror-movie taboos which I both appreciate yet hate at the same time (I don't want to give it away, too much, but let's just say that it involves dead infants).  The movie lacked an alien queen, and so there were no eggs, face-huggers, nor chest bursters, and evidently alien drones/workers can improvise by putting sending 3 larvae down someone's throat and into their abdomen. The birth scene of the unholy triplets (or was it quadruplets?) was downright horrific.  The movie was also so damn poorly lit, it was often hard to see what was going on.    

The plot and storytelling were so unimpressive that despite seeing it only a couple of weeks ago, I barely remember anything other than the explosion at the end of the movie (that ends the threat) and the aforementioned triplets. I think this movie may have actually harmed the franchise. 

Predators (2010)**:

IMDb Link

This one was pretty intriguing. A bunch of human badasses (badasses defined as worthy predator opponents: mercenaries, special forces, drug cartel enforcers, death-row murderers, and a psychopath or two) are kidnapped and dropped by parachute into a game preserve so that they can be hunted by a group of three predators. The movie established the existence of different factions in predator society, and I liked that.  There are some odd things left unexplained by the end of the movie.  Like, how could the doctor identify the flower with the paralytic properties, given where they were?  Was Lawrence Fishburne's character speaking to a hallucination or an invisible predator?  I also liked that the movie was left open-ended, with the survivors plotting how to get home as a new set of prey was airdropped in. 

The Predator (2018)***: 

IMDb Link

I actually liked this one (though the user reviews on IMDb are overwhelmingly negative).  I enjoyed the humor (I liked Alien Resurrection because of that same comedic horror).  It reduced the number of villains, which made for better, less confusing storytelling - there were two predators, and one obnoxious human (wonderfully played by Sterling K. Brown). The acting was good, the effects were excellent (blood from a human victim dripping onto a cloaked predator rendering it visible, was a wonderful touch).  For the first time, humans manage to use predator technology and that was excellent.  I thought the 10-foot super-predator was stupid (how much would it have to eat???), and the genetic hybridization storyline a little silly.  Also silly - calling the autism spectrum the next evolutionary step for humans felt ... trite, I guess? It was the fact that the kid was a genius that made him important. So it's not a perfect movie, but the storytelling was good, and it was entertaining.

Prey (2022)****:

IMDb Link

Holy mackerel, I loved this prequel movie.  I feel uncomfortable saying this, but ... I think it's a better movie than the original (it rises above it's B-movie origins).  It actually connects back to both of the first two movies in that it was inspired by the native American tracker in the first movie, and it includes an artifact from the second. 

The movie includes two villains, the Feral Predator, and also French fur trappers, but the storytelling is good enough that it doesn't suffer for it.  Rarely was I confused about what was going on, and then only because I think the filmmakers intended for us to wonder.   

The acting was great, the cinematography and special effects were excellent, and I loved the fact that for the first time, a woman led the story (this franchise is generally pretty testosterone-laden).  This is a nice connection to the Alien franchise, where strong women are the norm.  

Another thing I liked was the character growth - the main character actually evolved and grew as the story went along, something the previous movies mostly lacked.  

Two other really nice touches: the predator technology is crude compared to previous movies (though still quite advanced compared to both the Comanche and colonial weapons the humans had available) which makes perfect sense as it takes place 300 years in the past. Predator tech has progressed, just as ours has.  And the filmmakers also gave the script to two Comanche activists who ensured it was both culturally accurate and non-stereotyped.  Definitely worth watching.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Ice Cream Recipe Review: David Lebovitz's Vanilla Ice Cream, French Vanilla

 “Vanilla Ice Cream,” on page 28 of The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.

  • The online recipe can be found here
  • My other vanilla ice cream reviews can be found here.

This ice cream recipe uses 6 egg yolks, which is on the high end, but no sweet syrup, nor texture agent such as corn starch or tapioca flour.  It still turned out well.

I tried out a technique I read about at Serious Eats - I added all of the ingredients except for the vanilla extract into the pan, turned on the heat, and whisking regularly (not quite constantly), I brought the mixture to 165F (74C), when it began to thicken.  I removed from the heat, added the vanilla extract, then chilled the custard.  It turned out perfectly, and was far less work than the typical method.

I prefer vanilla beans from Vanilla Bean Kings, but I'm still using up existing stock of vanilla beans (in this case from Penzey's), and I used vanilla crush extract from Sonoma Syrups, which is an excellent extract.

Substitutions and Techniques:

  • Turbinado sugar instead of white sugar (always) as I prefer the flavor.
  • With the exception of the vanilla extract, I put all of the cold ingredients (including the egg yolks) into a pan at once, and whisked regularly until it began to thicken.
  • The recipe directs you to pour the custard through a sieve into the vanilla-infused milk before chilling. I ommitted that step which is only really necessary if you scramble the egg yolks.


  • Same day: The soft-serve stage is silky smooth and the vanilla flavor is great.  I got more overrun than usual (beating more air into the ice cream), so the soft-serve phase was a little less dense than I like.
  • Next day: The flavor and texture are excellent. I definitely prefer the strong vanilla flavor that combining beans and extract provides. The texture is perfectly smooth, and it's not frozen too hard.


Ice Cream: My new favorite topping: Mazapán

I tried the chocolate-peanut Mazapán ice cream recipe from Fany Gerson’s Mexican Ice Cream book, and I cannot say enough good things about mazapán, which will be a delicious stir-in to many ice creams.

What is mazapán, you may ask? Well, it's a little like marzipan, but made with peanuts instead of almonds, and it's somewhere between a cookie and a candy.

It's very simple, typically made with two ingredients: unsalted, roasted peanuts, and powdered sugar.  You process them in a food processor until it holds together, then you press the mixture into molds to make a delicate, crumbly cookie.  

It's a little like the center of regular Reece's peanut butter cups, but drier and more crumbly.  

Anyway it's delicious in ice cream - (when you cut the cookies up, leave the chunks reasonably large, at least chocolate-chip sized). Keep the mazapans in the fridge until it's time to stir them into the ice cream once churning is complete.

Here's a recipe:

If you’ve never tried it, be sure to look at several recipes (google for "peanut mazapan"), and watch a few videos to get a feel for how to make it (you MUST work the mixture in the food processor until fine enough to hold together, and that takes awhile. If you find you can’t get the mazapans to hold together, put them back in, and work it longer). I also pressed it out in a mat and cut circles with a cookie cutter instead of loading them individually. I pressed the mixture down in the cutter with the back of a spoon before removing the cutter and transferring the cookie. I grabbed the leftovers and made a smaller mat… rinse and repeat.

April 22, 2024 update: I've decided that my mazapanes were over-processed, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I decided to see what the candy is supposed to taste like, so I ordered some La Rosa mazapán from Amazon.

To my surprise, it was really quite different. Much paler, far more fragile, and sweeter, tasting strongly of powdered sugar. They remind me a little of Mexican wedding cookies, or even a powdered doughnut. They crumble easily (it's a bit surprising I managed to get one unwrapped in one piece for the photo below). Mine are more cohesive, have a stronger peanut flavor, and the peanut chunks are finer. The peanuts are also roasted less.

The darker one is my homemade mazapán, and
the paler one is made by La Rosa in Mexico.

For the purposes of ice cream - because mine was more cohesive, they provided really nice pops of peanut flavor in the mixture, and I also liked the toastier peanut flavor, whereas the traditional mazapán is going to break up more when it's stirred into the ice cream, and the flavor with be both milder, and more distributed.  But, I really loved the bigger chunks of peanut in the the La Rosa product.

The next time, I'm planning to overprocess half of the batch on purpose, maybe even processing it further than I did. For the second half, I will stop processing when the mixture is still quite coarse (but the oil has started to release), then integrate the two.  It may not be traditional, but it'll be delicious.