honey chamomile ice cream

I’m always amazed by how much a weekend away can do for your well-being. I feel very blessed and rejuvenated. And ready. I know I’ve said it once, but I have to say it again – Big Sur is magical.

We left the Bay Area and headed down to Big Sur on an overcast Saturday morning. Highway 1, even when enveloped in fog, always takes my breath away. The curves of the road, Bixby Bridge, the Pacific Ocean; it’s one of my favorite drives.

I’ve been mildly obsessed with Big Sur Bakery since I first laid eyes on their cookbook a few years back, so you can imagine my disappointment when we discovered upon arrival that it was closed for a private event. Who rents out an entire restaurant in Big Sur on a Saturday afternoon? Well, I ain’t one to gossip, but as it turns out, a certain Black Swan decided to get married in Big Sur the very weekend we were there. And I’m just guessing that might have had something to do with the bakery being closed. Not that this could ever be confirmed since every hotel and restaurant employee we crossed paths with was super tight-lipped about the event. We didn’t even know who got married until we got home. We just caught wind of a celebrity wedding while we were hanging out at our hotel.

Fortunately, we were able to have brunch at the Bakery before we headed home the following day. We were seated on their super cozy back patio, where we enjoyed the amazingly gorgeous weather along with a couple of pizzas, a burger, and a ginormous skillet baked pancake. It was the perfect place for our last Big Sur meal.

This ice cream was inspired by a recipe in The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook. The original recipe is for a honey chamomile ice cream terrine. I made the terrine last summer, and while it was delicious, it was almost too rich, even for me. But I loved the combination of chamomile and honey in a frozen treat and always meant to revisit it.

The opportunity finally presented itself the other day while I was looking for coconut milk ice cream recipes. I’m kinda sorta avoiding dairy and white sugar at the moment, so a coconut based ice cream sweetened with honey totally fit the bill. Then I remembered the honey-chamomile ice cream and ran with it. I couldn’t be more happy with the results. The ice cream still has a richness thanks to the coconut fattiness and the addition of egg yolks, and the chamomile and honey shine, even through the coconut milk. Add a few peach slices and maybe a drizzle of honey and you’ve got yourself some serious dessert.

Thank you, Big Sur!

honey chamomile ice cream

inspired by/adapted from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook by Michelle and Philip Wojtowicz and Michael Gilson; and WholeFoodsMarket.com

serves 6-8

1/2 cup honey, plus more for drizzling (optional)

2 cans regular coconut milk

1/2 cup loose chamomile flowers

4 egg yolks

2 peaches

1 tablespoon sugar

Combine the coconut milk and honey in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chamomile flowers, and let it steep for 10 minutes. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Discard the chamomile. Return the strained mixture to the saucepan.

Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl until smooth. Bring the coconut milk mixture back to a boil, and slowly ladle the hot liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over very low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve one more time, and refrigerate until it is cold. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

About 10 minutes before serving, slice the peaches and put them in a bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and let them macerate. Serve ice cream with peaches.

salted caramel ice cream

Salted. Caramel. Ice cream.

This is the reason you wait in a line that goes out the door and around the corner for a scoop of ice cream. This is how you get hooked on Bi-Rite Creamery.

Bi-Rite Creamery just released Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, a collection of their most beloved ice creams and sweet treats. I have a few favorites, like brown sugar ice cream with a ginger-caramel swirl, and malted vanilla ice cream with peanut brittle. But because I am a purist, I had to go for the salted caramel first.

This is surprisingly easy to make. It starts with a dry caramel, which is then incorporated into the ice cream base. And then the whole thing goes into the ice cream machine, and POW! You’ve got the richest, deepest caramel-flavored bowl of frozen heaven. It’s all at once sweet and salty and just a tad bitter. And oh so creamy. Give it a go if you’ve never been to Bi-Rite. Then you’ll know what all the fuss is about.

salted caramel ice cream

from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by Kris Hoogerhyde and Anne Walker

makes about one quart

1-3/4 cups heavy cream, at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup 1% or 2% milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

5 large egg yolks

for the caramel:

Set the cream by the stove so it’s at hand when you need it. Measure out 1/2 cup of the sugar and set near the stove; you’ll use this for the caramel (the rest will go with the yolks). Put 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a heavy nonreactive saucepan  and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the sugar is melted around the edges and starts to turn amber in places (about 2 minutes), stir the mixture gently and add another 2 tablespoons sugar to the pan.

Continue to add what remains of the 1/2 cup of sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring frequently and allowing most of the sugar to melt before you add more. Watch carefully as the sugar darkens, stirring gently to help it melt evenly.

When the caramel becomes a dark mahogany color, remove the pan from the heat and immediately but slowly pour the cream into the pan. (The mixture will steam and bubble up, so wear oven mitts and be very careful to avoid splatters and steam burns.) When the bubbling subsides, gently stir to completely blend the cream into the caramel. If you have lumps of hardened caramel in your pan, simply put the pan over low heat and stir until the caramel is melted.

for the base:

Once the caramel is completely smooth, stir in the milk along with the salt and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the mixture approaches a bare simmer, reduce the heat to medium.

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up, then whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Set aside.

Carefully scoop out about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture and, whisking the eggs constantly, add the cream to the bowl with the egg yolks. Repeat, adding another 1/2 cup of the hot cream to the bowl with the yolks. Using a heatproof rubber spatula, stir the cream in the saucepan as you slowly pour the egg-and-cream mixture from the bowl into the pan.

Cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, coats the back of a spatula, and holds a clear path when you run your finger across the spatula, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Strain the base through a fine mesh strainer into a clean container. Set the container into an ice-water bath, wash your spatula, and use it to stir  the base occasionally until it is cool. Remove the container from  the ice-water bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the base for at least 2 hours or overnight.

freeze the ice cream:

When the base is completely chilled, freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is churning, put the container you’ll use to store the ice cream into the freezer. Enjoy right away, or for a firmer ice cream, transfer to the chilled container and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Note: This ice cream has a much softer consistency than other ice creams due to its higher sugar content. As a result it does not work well with ice cream cakes and pies.

lemon frozen yogurt with blueberry swirls

Can we talk about frozen yogurt for a minute? I consider myself a frozen yogurt fan, and I definitely appreciate all of the shops that have popped up in recent years where you can try seven different flavors in one cup and choose from dozens of toppings (who would’ve ever guessed that Fruity Pebbles are actually super delish mixed into froyo?). But if I’m being totally honest, I will take a scoop of ice cream over frozen yogurt any day.

Unless it’s Jeni’s lemon frozen yogurt.

Because I do so much baking for the holidays and because it’s usually too cold to think about frozen treats, my ice cream maker gets stashed away during the winter months. But after picking up a copy of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, which I happened to find on sale(!) while I was shopping for Christmas gifts back in December, I threw my ice cream machine canister back in the freezer. The book delves into the science of ice cream making and talks a lot about chemistry and ingredients and technique; it will totally change the way you approach making ice cream at home. I couldn’t wait to get started. There were so many flavors I wanted to try, but lemon frozen yogurt was the first to catch my eye.

Oh. my. lord. I think this is probably the best thing that I have ever made in my ice cream machine. This is nothing like the stuff that comes out of a dispenser all soft and swirly. This is good, old fashioned frozen yogurt, similar to ice cream in texture, but with that tang that can only be achieved by using real yogurt. I’m partial to anything lemon, and this lemon froyo definitely delivers – bright and lemony and fragrant. It somehow manages to be ultra creamy and light without being fluffy or airy. And the swirls of sweet, fresh blueberry sauce are gorgeous and perfectly compliment the tart lemon yogurt. I feel like I’ve been missing out.

lemon frozen yogurt with blueberry swirls

from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer

makes 1 generous quart

for the frozen yogurt base:

1 quart plain low-fat yogurt, drained  

1-1/2 cups whole milk

2 tablespoons tapioca starch (or cornstarch if you can’t find tapioca starch)

2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup heavy cream

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

zest from 1 lemon (reserved from lemon syrup)

for the lemon syrup:

2 to 3 lemons (use Meyer lemons if you can find them)

3 tablespoons sugar

for the blueberry sauce (optional):

1-1/2 cups blueberries

3/4 cup sugar

To drain the yogurt:  Fit a sieve over a bowl and line with two layers of cheesecloth. Pour the yogurt into the sieve, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 6-8 hours to drain. Discard the liquid, and measure out 1-1/4 cups drained yogurt. Set aside.

for the blueberry sauce: Mix the blueberries and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries are tender and the sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool, then refrigerate until cold before using.

For the lemon syrup: Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest in large strips from 1 lemon and reserve for the frozen yogurt (large strips are easier to remove from the yogurt base later). Juice lemons until you have 1/2 cup.

Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and let cool.

for the frozen yogurt base: Mix 2 tablespoons of milk with the tapioca starch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.

In a medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth. Set aside.

Create an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water.

Combine the remaining milk, heavy cream, sugar, corn syrup, and lemon zest in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the tapioca starch slurry.

Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the reserved 1-1/4 cups yogurt and the lemon syrup and whisk until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Remove the zest from the chilled frozen yogurt base. Pour into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy and starts to pull away from the canister, about 25 minutes.

Pack the frozen yogurt into a storage container, starting with a little blueberry sauce on the bottom of the container. Alternate yogurt with layers of blueberry sauce. End with a spoonful of sauce; do not mix. Press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

ginger cayenne rhubarb ice pops

It’s finally beginning to feel like summer around here. Barbecues, sandals, sundresses, sunscreen, sunburn. It’s warm. It’s sunny. I love it. I think this calls for frozen treats.

I might’ve mentioned a few months back that I was having quite a time finding rhubarb around here. So when I finally spotted some, I bought about three pounds – I had a few projects in mind. Long story short, my original plan didn’t really work out. But I still had some rhubarb to play with. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it; I wanted rhubarb ice pops.

When I visited Chelsea Market in May, I was totally overstimulated. There were infused oils and flavored vinegars and lobster rolls and bakeries galore. And there was also the newly opened People’s Pops counter, where they slang their shave ice and ice pops made from local produce. I almost left without checking it out, but I was thirsty and the place across the way had run out of coconut water. So I jumped on the wagon and left Chelsea Market with a ginger-cayenne rhubarb ice pop. It was superb – sweet and tart with a kick from the ginger and a little lip-tingle from the cayenne; very refreshing. It was the best damn pop I’ve had in a long time. I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

Which brings us back to my surplus of rhubarb. I knew I wanted to re-create the ice pop I had in New York, so I started to do a little research. And then I found a recipe for the People’s Pops’ rhubarb ice pops. The recipe didn’t include ginger or cayenne, so I did a little improvising. And the pops were perfect – cool and creamy and a little bit spicy; I was totally pleased with the results. There is something so very satisfying about making your own ice pops. I’m ready for more.

ginger cayenne rhubarb ice pops

adapted from New York Magazine Online

makes 8-10 3-ounce ice pops

1 pound rhubarb

4 ounces water, plus more to cover rhubarb

4 ounces cane sugar

1  one-inch piece of ginger, cut into thick slices

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon  cayenne pepper

2-1/2 ounces heavy cream

Wash and chop the rhubarb into one-inch pieces. Place rhubarb in a wide-bottomed, nonreactive pot, and add approximately 1 inch of water, or enough to cover the rhubarb. Cover the pot, and cook over medium heat until the rhubarb breaks down into a lumpy purée, about 15 to 20 minutes. Strain the purée from its juice, and reserve both.

In a small pot, combine 4 ounces of water with the cane sugar. Add the sliced ginger. Gently heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from burner, cover, and let ginger steep in the syrup for 10 minutes.  Remove ginger from the syrup and mince.

In a pitcher, combine the rhubarb purée and the ginger syrup. Adjust sweetness—keeping in mind that some sweetness will dissipate upon freezing—by adding some of the reserved rhubarb juice. Save remaining juice for another use. Stir in the minced ginger and cayenne pepper. Stir in the heavy cream until completely incorporated. Pour mixture into ice-pop molds, and freeze overnight.

chocolate ice cream with pumpkin seed brittle (and olive oil and sea salt)

I thought you all might want something sweet for Valentine’s Day. Oh, Valentine’s Day. I like Valentine’s Day because it’s a free pass to eat chocolate. I used to make truffles for Valentine’s Day. But I got a little lazy this year and thought ice cream would be better. Because you can make it in advance. And who doesn’t love ice cream?

I’ll let you in on a little secret – I very rarely crave ice cream. If ice cream is nearby, like if I happen to be in a certain neighborhood and I pass a certain ice creamery, I wont say no. But I typically don’t buy it at the market or keep it stocked in my freezer. Of course, now that I’m the proud owner of an ice cream maker, I don’t really have to. In case you were wondering, an ice cream maker is a sure way to get yourself into some dietary trouble.

So, back to chocolate ice cream. This one is great. It’s custard based so it’s rich but somehow sort of light at the same time.  And perfectly chocolatey (use the best chocolate and cocoa you can get your hands on). It’s really nice on its own. But it’s even more fantastic topped with a few hunks of pumpkin seed brittle. And a drizzle of olive oil. And a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Get ready to fall in love. xo.

chocolate ice cream with pumpkin seed brittle (and olive oil and sea salt)

from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

makes 1 about quart

2 cups heavy cream

3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup whole milk

3/4 cup sugar

pinch of salt

5 large egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pumpkin seed brittle (see recipe below)

extra virgin olive oil, for garnish (I like Stonehouse Olive Oil)

coarse sea salt, for garnish  (I like Maldon or fleur de sel is nice, too)

In a medium saucepan, whisk the cocoa powder into 1 cup of cream. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer at a very low boil for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth. Stir in the remaining 1 cup cream. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, scraping the saucepan as thoroughly as possible. Set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.

Prepare an ice bath in a bowl/basin large enough to hold your mixing bowl.

Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in the same saucepan. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the warmed egg yolks into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir into the chocolate mixture until smooth, then stir in the vanilla. Place in the ice bath and stir until cool.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

pumpkin seed brittle

adapted from MarthaStewart.com

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup pepitas

Line an 11×17-inch rimmed baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar and honey. Bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until mixture is medium amber and a candy thermometer registers 280°F, about 6 minutes. Stir in pumpkin seeds. Cook until mixture reaches 300°F, about 2 minutes. Pour onto prepared baking sheet. Let cool completely. Break into pieces.

peach ice cream

Summer almost always arrives late in the Bay Area. This year was no exception. We finally had a few real-live summer days the last week of August; it was a record breaking 95° in San Francisco! Needless to say, it was pretty spectacular, especially considering that this summer has been a bust as far as the weather is concerned. So spectacular, that I did whatever I could to make the most of the heat (and find relief from my non-air conditioned house). I ate cold oysters on the half shell. I drank delicious beers and had what Sara and I refer to as “das burger” out on the patio of one of my favorite bars. I slept with an ice-cold water bottle in my bed which, by the way, is genius if I do say so myself. And I made ice cream.

Earlier this year I popped into Sur la Table to buy a cake pan. I came home with an ice cream maker. This is very typical of my behavior. It remained in the box for months just waiting patiently for someone to put it to use (also very typical). Meanwhile, I had been dying for an excuse to make ice cream. But it never got hot enough. And I’ve been preoccupied with other projects. So in the box it stayed. Until this little heat wave came along.

I requested a copy of David Lebovitz’ The Perfect Scoop from the library at the beginning of summer with the intention of putting my new ice cream maker to good use early in the season. I’ve recently adopted the practice of checking out cookbooks from the library before adding them to my permanent collection. I’m a bit of an impulse buyer(see above), so I think of it as a preventative measure. After weeks of waiting, the book finally arrived just as it was starting to get warm out here.

I love David Lebovitz. His blog is my favorite of all the food blogs I follow. It’s full of information about food and restaurants and Paris and Parisians (and their quirks) and sometimes the most random yet fascinating topics are addressed. I also find him hilarious. Seriously, the man is a riot and reading his posts always puts a smile on my face. I wish we were eating/drinking buddies or pen pals.

When several pounds of peaches magically appeared at my house, I took it as a sign to make peach ice cream. The combination of peaches and cream really is a no-brainer. One of my favorite summer time snacks is sliced peaches dipped in sour cream (don’t knock it till you try it). So I was pleasantly surprised to find that David’s peach ice cream calls for sour cream in addition to the usual heavy cream found in most recipes.

This ice cream is everything ice cream should be: sweet, creamy, refreshing and good to the last drop. The peach flavor was perfectly pronounced and the lemon juice and sour cream really tie it all together. I am seriously contemplating making a few more batches while peaches are still in season. But there are so many other flavors I can’t wait to try! Looks like The Perfect Scoop will be joining the permanent collection.

peach ice cream

from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

makes bout 1 quart (1 liter)

1-1/3 pounds ripe peaches (about 4 large peaches)

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

a few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice

Peel the peaches (see below), slice them in half, and remove the pits. Cut the peaches into chunks and cook them with the water in a medium, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, covered, stirring once or twice, until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, stir in the sugar, then cool to room temperature.

Puree the cooked peaches and any liquid in a blender or food processor with the sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla, and lemon juice until almost smooth but slightly chunky.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

*An easy way to peel peaches is to cut an X at the bottom and then lower them in a pot of boiling water for about 20 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to a colander and shock them with cold water, then let them cool. Afterward, the peel should slip right off.