Friday, May 31, 2024

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

"Vanilla Ice Cream" from Rose's Ice Cream Bliss by Rose Levy Beranbaum.
  • My other vanilla ice cream reviews can be found here.

Since I couldn't find the recipe online, I've included a stripped-down version of her ingredient list with only the imperial measurements (but really, you should just buy her book, which also gives metrics - both weight and volume - and instructions/techniques, and ... it's my new favorite ice cream book). I've also shared my own instructions/techniques which do differ from the author's.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 smallish Madagascar vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped out
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 3 tbsp liquid sugar (glucose or reduced corn syrup)
  • 1 pinch fine salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Place all ingredients except the vanilla extract into a saucepan over medium-low heat, or upper chamber of a double boiler. Whisk ingredients together and then turn on the heat (medium-low) and continue whisking until ingredients reach about 175F/79C and have thickened slightly and coat the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat, add vanilla extract, and set custard in very cold water and whisk for a few minutes and the custard cools down. Place in fridge and chill overnight and very cold. Before churning, remove the vanilla pods.

I used 2 small Madagascar vanilla beans from Vanilla Bean Kings and Vanilla Bean Project Regenerative Organic Certified Pure Vanilla Extract.  I definitely favor using both extract and beans.  

The custard barely thickened, even though I took it all the way to 180F (dangerous, as eggs do odd things above that temp), even 182 briefly (I hadn't intended to take it above 175F, but I was messing with my new thermometer) 

The vanilla flavor is wonderfully strong and the ice cream is silky smooth. I really like this recipe a lot.

Substitutions and Techniques:

  • Turbinado sugar instead of white sugar (always) as I prefer the flavor
  • Tapioca syrup 1:1 instead of glucose
  • Vanilla pods infused in the custard in overnight
  • I didn't follow Rose's techniques, but used the no-temper method (outlined above), which is similar but not identical.

Results:

  • Same day: silky smooth and wonderfully flavorful. 
  • Next day:  silky smooth and wonderfully flavorful. Scoopable, but only just.

Uses:

  • I stirred Mi-Del lemon snap chunks into the ice cream and layered/swirled lemon curd in with the ice cream to make lemon-vanilla cookies and cream.  It was very, very tasty.

 

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Ice Cream Recipe Review: Ample Hill's Creamery Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

  “Vanilla Bean” from Ample Hill's Creamery: Secrets and Stories from Brooklyn's Favorite Ice Cream Shop by Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna.

  • The online recipe for the base can be found here (for those who don't use metric measurements: here).
  • My other vanilla ice cream reviews can be found here.

This was an unusual recipe in that it directs you to steep a few whole coffee beans in the custard, which you strain out just before churning.  It uses only 3 eggs for one recipe, and I found that the custard didn't thicken very much when I cooked it (the recipe has you take it to 165 and ignores the texture).  It also includes a LOT of skim milk powder (1/2 cup!) and it took a lot of whisking to get it fully dissolved.  The coffee beans float which made it very easy to locate them and pull them out the next day.

I used a Madagascar vanilla bean from Vanilla Bean Kings and Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract (which I'm trying to use up). 

I really like this recipe. It is nice and smooth and has a lovely flavor. The recipe says you can't taste the coffee, but I totally could. It's obvious in the soft-serve stage, and still faintly detectible once fully frozen.  As much as I love coffee ice cream, I don't think I'd include the coffee beans again - it limits how the finished ice cream can be used, and I found myself searching for the coffee and wishing it were stronger.

Substitutions and Techniques:

  • The recipe in the book calls for 1 vanilla bean and 1.5 tsp of vanilla extract so that's what I did.
  • Turbinado sugar (always).
  • No-temper technique in a double boiler: I put the egg yolks and sugar in the top chamber of the double boiler and whisked them until well integrated. I added all the rest of the ingredients (except for the extract) and turned on the heat. I whisked constantly until the milk powder dissolved, then frequently after that.

Results:

  • Same day: Coffee flavor was definitely detectible. Delicious and smooth.
  • Next day:  Coffee was much less obvious in the fully-frozen ice cream. Still smooth and reasonably scoopable (though I wish it were more so).

Uses:

  • I used 1.25 cups of homemade chocolate chips and also layered in caramel sauce.  I'd intended to make a vanilla-lemon ice cream but I didn't think the coffee flavor would go with lemon very well.
  • I think if the coffee is included, I'd lean toward combining the ice cream with stronger, bolder flavors that don't lean sour.  So chocolate is good, and fruit other than citrus.  Caramels, hot fudge, etc.

Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice

Years ago, I had red beans and rice in New Orleans, and it was simply delicious. Then, in 1998, I became a vegetarian, and I've tried my hand at making a vegetarian version, but it was never very good. I think the bean mixture wasn't saucy enough, so it always ended up kind of dry and pasty.

Anyway, I stumbled across this Serious Eats recipe, and adapted it in two ways: this version uses vegetarian sausage as the meat substitute, and it uses a pressure cooker to cook the beans and rice, so the timing had to be modified significantly. I also added my own spin on the amounts of some of the ingredients. It turned out really tasty, and was the first vegetarian version I've actually liked.

Beans:

  • 1 pound (450g) red beans of your choice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Other aromatics of your choice


Sausage and Veggies:

  • 1 pkg of vegetarian spicy Italian sausage, frozen or thawed (Should include 3-6 large sausages, depending on brand)
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (about 12 ounces; 340g)
  • 1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (about 8 ounces; 225g)
  • 4 ribs celery, finely chopped (about 8 ounces; 225g)
  • 4-10 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon (3 to 15g) ground cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon (about 4g) ground sage
  • Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
  • Salt to taste
  • 2-4 tbsp Apple cider vinegar (optional - adds a pickled taste characteristic of some variations)


Serving:

  • 2 or so cups of rice of your choice
  • Hot sauce to taste


Instructions:

  1. Cook beans, bay leaves, and other aromatics in a pressure cooker according to the manufacturer’s instructions for that bean type. 
  2. While the beans are cooking, put the oil in dutch oven along with the sausages. Defrost/cook, turning occasionally. When the sausage has thawed, use the tip of a spatula or a knife to cut sausage into ½” disks. Continue cooking until nicely browned.
  3. While the sausages are cooking, chop the onion, pepper, celery, and garlic. Add the vegetables except for the garlic to the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes until softened and browning at the edges. 
  4. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so, then add the cayenne, sage, thyme, and black pepper to taste (but there should be lots of it) and cook for another minute or so, until everything is fragrant.
  5. Add Beans:
    • Slower method: When the beans are done, release the pressure (don’t wait for an NPR; the beans will still be al dente), add the beans and the bean liquid (along with bay leaves) to the vegetable/sausage mixture in the dutch oven, cover, bring to a simmer, and cook until the beans are tender, perhaps another 30 minutes or so (depending on bean type and age).  
    • Faster method: let the beans cook fully in the pressure cooker (including the natural pressure release) then add the contents of the pressure cooker to the Dutch oven.
  6. While the beans are simmering in the Dutch oven, cook the rice.  
  7. Remove the lid from the bean mixture and continue to cook until the liquid becomes creamy. If the stew looks dry before it becomes creamy, add additional water, and repeat until the mixture seems thick and creamy. The bean mixture will be a little soupy when it is done.
  8. Add salt to taste, and if using, the vinegar (some styles call for pickled elements)
  9. Serve over rice, and add hot sauce as needed


Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Marriage to a Fellow Tool-Whore

It's fun being married to a tool-whore who not just enables me to buy more cool kitchen gadgets, but actively encourages it.  

I'm still trying to figure out the cause of my two custard failures (seriously, I've made several dozen successful ones and never had a failure before, so this is bugging me), and I can't rule out having simply overcooked it (see below for my reasoning). 

So, I researched kitchen thermometers and came up with two well-regarded models tested by organizations I trust, the OXO Good Grips Glass Candy and Deep Fry Thermometer ($23), and the Thermoworks ChefAlarm® Cooking Alarm Thermometer and Timer ($65). They both have significant pros and cons and the price varies significantly (the expensive one isn't so expensive we can't afford it, but it does seem like a lot to spend on a thermometer) so it wasn't an easy decision.  Anyway, I sent the links to Chris thinking that he may have an opinion based on his own needs/uses.  I also thought he'd most likely encourage me to just get the cheaper one as it would almost certainly meet my needs.

A few minutes later, he came to my office and we had the following conversation:

Chris: This is probably not the advice you were looking for ...

Me:  [thinking: great, he's going to suggest making do with what we have]

Chris: ... but I think you should get them both.

Me: [eyebrows up] What? Really?

Chris: Yeah.  I'm pretty enchanted by the electronic one and the various uses, though I don't like that it uses triple-A's instead of rechargeables.  And the cheap one is low-tech and looks both accurate and reliable ... and it'll be great to have after the fall of civilization.

Me: Well, OK, then [orders both].


Why I think I may have overcooked the custard:

I tend to use my Fluke infrared (IR) thermometer (and it lives on the kitchen island), as it's quick and extremely handy.  But after my first custard failure, I made it again, this time using TWO thermometers, the Fluke as well as a cheap candy thermometer, the kind with a dial and a probe that extends down into the custard that you clip to the side of your pan.  

I noticed that the Fluke tended to read significantly cooler than the candy thermometer, by about 7-8 degrees F.  But the nature of IR thermometers is that they measure surface temperature only.  You can hold the trigger and scan across the item's surface, and when you release the trigger, it'll give you an average of the surface temps, but it's still just surface temperatures.  The probe, on the other hand, is measuring (I think) an average temperature along its length below the surface.  

I cooked the custard until the IR readings were consistently 170F.  The probe also showed that it was around 170F by that point as well (why do they sometimes match, and sometimes not?), but it took significantly longer to get there.  So maybe I cooked it too long, or maybe it was much hotter than 170 near the bottom of the mixture, despite my constant stirring.  And custards need to be kept under 180-185F, otherwise the egg yolks do weird things.


Making custard with four
thermometers is kind of a pain


Sunday, May 19, 2024

Ice Cream Recipe Review: Van Leeuwen's Vanilla Ice Cream

  “Vanilla Ice Cream” on page 37 of Van Leeuwen's Artisan Ice Cream Book by Laura O'Neill, Ben Van Leeuwen, Pete Van Leeuwen, and Olga Massov.

  • The online recipe can be found here. (You'll need to scroll down a bit, and click on the image to enlarge).
  • My other vanilla ice cream reviews can be found here

I made this ice cream FOUR times before I felt like it was at all reasonable to review it.  The first two times were failures, and despite all my research, I still don't know why. The third time was a failure for a different reason (one that was entirely my fault), and the 4th time was an unmitigated success producing a wonderfully rich, smooth ice cream.

This ice cream uses eight egg yolks for a quart-sized batch.  Yes, you read that right - EIGHT.  The ice cream is very nearly yellow in color.  The recipe lacks both a liquid sugar or any sort of stabilizer, but I suspect the extreme number of yolks may keep the ice cream smooth despite that, though I'm curious to see if it remains smooth after a couple of weeks in the freezer.

For the first three tries, I was still using up older stock of Madagascar vanilla beans, and for the fourth try I finally got to use my newer Vanilla Bean Kings stash. 

First try (failure): I used the no-temper technique (placing all ingredients while still cold into the pan) in a sauce pan using medium heat (as normal) and whisked nearly continuously until it reached 170F/77C and when it was done cooking it was nice and smooth, but once the custard cooled, it had turned grainy (before going into the churn). I don't think the problem could be with leaving the bean pod in the custard overnight - I always do that, and it's never caused graininess before.  The ice cream was an abject failure. Good flavors, but absolutely terrible, grainy texture. Overall, it was a 3 out of 10.  Other than giving a few samples away to family, I tossed it.  

Second try (failure): Same as above, but I cooked the custard on medium-low and used not one but TWO thermometers - a probe-style clipped to the pan, and also regular checks with the instant-read.  This, too, was smooth while hot and grainy once cool.  I rescued this one by running it through the Vitamix before churning, and that raised its score to maybe a 7/10. Still not where it should be, but definitely worth eating.

Third try (failure): For this one, I followed the recipe EXACTLY (except for leaving the bean pod in the custard overnight), even using a double-boiler. I did notice that the quality of the creme anglaise was better than usual when the cooking was complete. The graininess was still there the next morning, but MASSIVELY reduced, like by 90%.  I also re-read the sidebar which suggests blending the bean pod in with the custard, and I unthinkingly did so, which spoiled the experiment by adding a confounding variable).   I must not have blended it long enough because the texture was just  ... odd.  Almost, powdery, I guess? It was scoopable, though, so I don't think it was an emulsion failure, and the odd texture seemed to be from not-quite-fully processed vanilla bean pod bits.  I don't think the vanilla flavor was improved by blending the bean, so I won't be doing that in the future. I threw away the second half of the quart.

Fourth try (success): I used a bean from Vanilla Bean Kings (is it possible that the problems with the previous tries were with the beans I was using?), and I again followed the recipe as written (though I left the bean pod in the custard during the chilling process, removing it just before churning).  This time, I turned out perfectly and was delicious.

For whatever reason, this custard seems far more finicky than others, but that might be an unfair assessment, and I will be doing some testing to see what caused the graininess.   Like, can I get away with just a saucepan (instead of a double-boiler) if I add some liquid sugar and/or stabilizers? Or what if I use the double-boiler - is that enough to use the no-temper method even without the liquid sugar or stabilizers?  Or did I simply overcook it in the saucepan? (My instant read thermometer seems to register a cooler temperature than the candy thermometer.) I am really not sure what the tradeoffs will be. It'll be interesting to find out.

Substitutions and Techniques:

  • Turbinado sugar instead of white sugar (always) as I prefer the flavor for the first two batches.
  • I used white sugar for the third and fourth batches (as I'm trying to figure out the cause of the graininess).
  • This recipe uses only one vanilla bean, and no extract (I think I prefer vanilla ice cream to have both), but in the first batch, I accidentally used two vanilla beans, so the flavor was nice and strong despite the lack of extract.  How did I accidentally use two?  Before putting the milk/cream for this recipe in the freezer (I buy milk and cream in larger quantities, then freeze it in ready-to-go amounts), I split a vanilla bean and dropped it into the milk.  When I was ready to make this ice cream, I set the jar of frozen dairy in a pan of warm water to thaw, then started gathering my other ingredients. Forgetting that there was a bean frozen into the milk, I got another one ready to go and added it to the pan. Then I dumped the milk into the pan ... along with the second bean.
  • For the second batch, I used only one bean.
  • For the third batch, I used only one bean, but I blended it into the custard.
  • For the first two batches, I used the-throw-all-cold ingredients into the pan and cook until it hits 170F/77C technique (ie, no-temper technique), but for some reason, the custards were grainy.
  • For the third and fourth batches, I used a double-boiler, and did temper the eggs.

Results:

  • Custard 1: 
    • Same day: Grainy. Good flavor.
    • Next day: Terrible texture. Dry and very, very hard and grainy. The flavor was good. But it was bad enough to throw it away.
  • Custard 2 (blended before churning): 
    • Same day: Good flavor, acceptable texture.
    • Next day: Acceptable texture, reasonably scoopable, Flavor was good.  Much better than the previous batch, but definitely far from my best.
  • Custard 3 (radically reduced graininess that might just be the vanilla seeds, blended pod into custard before churning). Unfortunately, I don't think I blended the pod ENOUGH because it made it a little chalky.
    • Same day: kind of chalky from the blended pod.  Not sure I like that.
    • Next day: It's reasonably scoopable, even frozen hard. Texture is still off, but I think that's the fault of the pod, which I apparently didn't blend fully. I also don't think the flavor is especially improved by blending the pod, so doubt I'll bother with that again.
  • Custard 4: Delicious.  Just perfect both days.  

Uses:

  • I added dark chocolate chips, candied orange peel, and drizzled homemade orange syrup into the ice cream to make a ripple of sorts in two batches. I think ginger snap chunks would taste great with this combination, or maybe chocolate wafers (like Oreos, but better).
  • With the third batch, I didn't add any stir-ins as I'm having guests that weekend, and having vanilla ice cream on hand would be a good idea.
  • With the fourth batch, I added Oreo cookies and raspberry ripple.  

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Ice Cream Recipe Review: Rose Levy Beranbaum's Dark Brown Sugar Ice Cream with Black Pepper

  “Dark Brown Sugar Ice Cream with Black Pepper” from Rose's Ice Cream Bliss by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

  • My other ice cream reviews can be found here.

I can't find the recipe online except behind a paywall, so I've included the ingredients below, so you can get a sense of the flavors:

  • Dairy: 2 cups heavy cream and 1 cup whole milk
  • Eggs: 7-11 (I used 9)
  • Sugars: - 3/4 cup dark brown sugar and 2 tbsp liquid sugar
  • Other flavors: 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and a pinch of salt
  • Black pepper: Added as a "to-taste" topping when the ice cream is served.

I didn't like the black pepper as a topping very much - it felt out of place and didn't meld the flavors at all. We also managed to inhale it a bit from time to time, making us cough a little now and then as we ate.  I'm inclined to either add black pepper to a caramel sauce and layer that in, OR cook the black pepper inside a fine mesh bag to infuse the flavor, then remove it before churning. 

I didn't think the brown sugar flavor was quite strong enough, so I stirred in 2 tsp of molasses to the chilled custard (molasses is acidic, so it's best added when the milk is cold to avoid curdling the dairy). One family member thought the molasses flavor was too strong, and others liked it.  

Alas, my ice cream maker decided to leak coolant out the bottom (fortunately NOT into the ice cream), so I transferred the partially frozen mixture to my backup ice cream maker and promptly broke the hub assembly on the second bowl, so I finished churning by hand (just mixing it in the frozen bowl).  I went from two ice cream makers to zero in about 5 minutes.    I now have a replacement bowl (under warranty) and a new hub assembly on their way to me.  Obscenities could probably be heard at my neighbor's house.

Substitutions and Techniques:

  • I used brown sugar as the recipe called for instead of my usual turbinado.
  • I used glucose as the liquid sugar.
  • I (mostly) followed Rose's no-temper technique; I put the egg yolks into the pan, added the granulated sugar to them and beat them a little to combine. Then I added all the other ingredients except the vanilla, turned on the heat and cooked, gently whisking nearly constantly until the temperature passed 165F/74C and it was starting to thicken.  I didn't use a double boiler, and the texture was nice and smooth.
  • I transferred the mixture to my milk can, added the vanilla extract, and set the can in a sink of cold water. I mixed for a few minutes, then left it to chill for an hour before transferring to the fridge to finish chilling.

Results:

  • Same day: Nice and smooth despite the hand-mixed finish. Very nice flavor.  I think I'd recommend people start with 1 tsp of molasses to amp up the flavor, and add a second (as I did) if they like it strong.
  • Next day: Not as smooth as I'd like, but very very good considering how I churned it.

Uses:

  • Strawberry sauce goes nicely on it. I think an apple caramel sauce ribbon would be good, as well as graham crackers, or a cookies-and-cream variation using ginger snaps.  

Friday, May 10, 2024

Ice Cream Recipe Review: David Lebowitz's Chocolate Ice Cream

  “Chocolate Ice Cream” from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebowitz.

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

I don't know if it's the double-boiler that caused this, but this is the smoothest egg-based custard I've ever made (despite not having a liquid sugar nor a stabilizer both of which really do help prevent iciness).  I also had some difficulty getting the custard up to 170F/77C, but I watched the consistency, and it thickened appropriately on the cool side - around 160F/71C.  I wonder if it's because the water level had dropped too much in the lower chamber of the double boiler?  It was far from empty, but it dropped an inch in the time I cooked the custard.

Note: to pasteurize an egg, it must be held at 140F/60C for 3.5 minutes. The custard was held at a significantly higher temperature for a significantly longer period of time, so the concern here wasn't with food safety, but whether it would achieve the right texture (it did).

Either way, once chilled, the custard was so thick (about the consistency of pudding cups I ate as a kid) I had to spoon it into the churn.   I must have managed the temperatures appropriately because I doubt it would have thickened so much if I hadn't. 

It's also very deeply chocolatey (which I appreciate in an ice cream).  I think I prefer the flavor of Fany Gerson's chocolate ice cream with mazap├ín (which tastes like a flourless chocolate cake in ice cream form), but this was really, really good.

Substitutions and Techniques:

  • Turbinado sugar instead of white sugar (always) as I prefer the flavor.
  • I used chocolate chips as the chocolate source.
  • I'm currently using a double boiler for my egg-based custards.
  • I used the no-temper technique I adapted from Serious Eats and Rose Levy Beranbaum. I placed the egg yolks into the upper chamber of the double boiler (while it was cold) and whisked them with 1/3 of the sugar. Then I added all the rest of the ingredients except the vanilla and chocolate chips, whisked it gently then turned on the heat under the double boiler.  
  • I filled the sink with cold water in preparation for rapid chilling of the custard.
  • The chocolate chips and vanilla went into my mini milk can that I use to chill the custard.  I poured the custard onto the chips, then placed the can into the sink of cold water to begin the chilling process.  
  • I whisked the mixture to melt the chips, and it turned a deep glossy, chocolatey brown (that glossiness is what you are looking for), and I continued whisking for a couple of minutes, long enough for it to cool to warm then left the can in the cold water for an hour before transferring the custard to the fridge overnight.
  • I churned at a faster speed than usual to decrease the richness a little. It lightened noticeably in color (as with a whipped ganache).

Results:

  • Same day: Silky smooth. The flavor is more deeply chocolate than the color would imply. Wonderful.
  • Next day: Excellent flavor and texture.  Not as scoopable as I'd like - still need to let it sit at room temp for 10 minutes first. 

Uses:

  • Chambord is delicious on this ice cream. 
  • I think a salted caramel ripple would be wonderful in it, or even some sort of banana ripple ... or any fruit ripple, really.