I attended a very cool workshop on the weekend: Sparkling Summer Beverages with Emily Ho. It was so much fun. We were a class of about 15 people and in just over 2 hours, we each learned to make and went home with:
2. A Ginger Ale fermented with Champagne Yeast, and
3. A Shrub Syrup with our choice of fruit, herbs and spices. Mine was made with peach, plum, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and black peppercorns.
I picked up some useful tips like storing peeled ginger in the freezer to make it much easier to grate. I am now inspired to make more syrups that I can use in homemade sodas and as ice cream flavorings.
Recently I had the pleasure of doing some illustrations for Hannah Kaminsky, amazing vegan chef and cookbook author. You may remember the Chocolate Hazelnut and Tropical Plum ice cream recipes on this blog… both were inspired by Hannah.
I highly recommend Vegan A La Mode and Vegan Desserts for creative flavor ideas and inspiration even if you are not vegan. I am not vegan but I try not to consume too much dairy. Below are two illustrations of recipes from Hannah Kaminsky’s new book - Easy As Vegan Pie:
Meanwhile, here’s a new Cooking Conversions fridge magnet starring Boogie my blue-eyed boston terrier. It is an updated version of this earlier magnet that I made for myself but if anyone is interested I would be glad to take pre-orders and get extra copies printed. Stay tuned to the facebook page! :)
Last but not least, I am registered for the next LA Food Swap - August 18th 5-7pm, Spice Station, Silverlake. Looking forward to it! :)
Day 2: I cooked up a Chocolate ice cream and a Vanilla-Lemon ice cream. Let these chill in the fridge overnight.
Day 3: Churned the ice creams. I made “divider cards” for the containers by cutting up postcards to size, and wrapping these in parchment paper.
I filled half the containers with Choc ice cream and cookie pieces, and let these sit in the freezer for a few hours, on their sides, to prevent the soft chocolate ice cream from seeping under the cardboard onto the other side.
When the chocolate ice cream had firmed up a bit, I churned the Vanilla-Lemon ice cream (I have a NewAir compressor machine so I can make more than one batch per day) I then removed the cards, and filled the other half of the containers.
Black and White ice cream! With black and white cookies!
I am very lucky that I live within walking distance of RAMEKIN (Los Angeles) so last night my friends and I were the first customers in line to taste Matthew Biancaniello's trio of exotic boozy savory ice creams.
*Laphroaig with chocolate covered blanched garlic, topped with Matthew’s signature Never Let Me Go (Cynar cassis and blood orange), toasted saffron, and blood orange slices… and peppers
The tequila squid ink was our favorite … also the favorite of the guy sitting at the next table, and MB himself. It was the least salty of the three and had the most amazing combination of flavors. The saffron laphroaig was nice and had a touch of spice and citrus; and the parmesan flavor was much more subtle than expected. Neither of us liked the dehydrated olives… which was the saltiest element in the ice cream trio, and the rum-marinated surinam cherries were like, wow. They taste like spicy tomatoes! The whole experience was pretty exotic and cool.
My first impression of the New Air machine was - wow! It is huge. And the canister looks tiny. It’s hard to imagine that 1 quart of ice cream will fit in there but it does! So far, I have made 4 ice creams in this machine: Bacon (with Pineapple), Spicy Chocolate, Celery (with Rum Raisins) & Banana (with Date Caramel).
KEY FEATURES of the NEWAIR:
1. The machine is self-cooling with a compressor so the canister bowl doesn’t need to be frozen before spinning. This is super convenient and because the bowl is so small anyway, I keep it in the freezer. It doesn’t take up much space.
2. Ingredients don’t have to be cold before spinning. This is not an advantage for me because I like to chill my ice cream mixture overnight anyway to let the flavors intensify. But if you are in a hurry (and have at least 60 minutes), this is another convenient feature.
This is my pre-chilled Spicy Chocolate ice cream mixture…
3. The machine runs on automatic… Set the timer, walk away and let it do its magic. There is a tiny opening in the plastic lid if you want to add in extra ingredients during the last minutes of spinning. The default time is 60 mins, and it will automatically stop spinning when the ice cream is done - even if the 60 mins isn’t up yet. The machine will also keep the ice cream cold, after it is done.
As my ice cream mixture is already cold before spinning, I find that the process takes roughly 40 minutes. A bit longer than the Cuisinart’s 20 minutes.
4. No noise! I love that it’s so silent, unlike the Cuisinart.
CHALLENGES & TIPS:
1. This New Air ice cream machine is a beast. It’s large and weighs 30lbs. It takes up a lot of precious kitchen counter space.
2. There are more parts than the Cuisinart and they are quite awkward to fit together. For instance, there’s a heavy “motor” thing with a stick that has to slot into the canister lid AND also into a hole on top of tiny plastic paddle which has to be positioned inside the canister at the correct angle so that the motor stick fits. It’s a bit like an Ikea assembly exercise and I keep feeling like I am going to break something. TIP: A chopstick will help line up the paddle opening with the plastic lid opening.
3. The second time I used this machine, the canister was frozen stuck and I could not lift it out of the machine. Tip from fellow ice cream maker David Vo (who has had experience with compressor-based ice cream machines): "Wipe down the outside of the canister with alcohol (eg, Vodka) before lowering it into the machine. The high freezing point of alcohol will prevent the metal canister from sticking". Yes, this works.
SO HOW IS THE ICE CREAM?
Good ice cream! There is some inconsistency with the freezing… it tends to be solid down the bottom and on the sides, and softer on top and in the middle. (The Cuisinart result has a more consistent soft-serve texture throughout.) But this is not a big deal. I don’t know if the ice cream tastes “commercial grade” because I don’t buy commercial ice creams…
Here is the Bacon ice cream from the night before. Sorry, bad lighting, but you can see what I mean.
The top/middle part is soft. Underneath and around the sides - frozen solid. This was after 60 minutes and the ice cream mixture was already cold before I added it to the machine. Increasing the freezing time would not remedy this issue because the paddle will stop anyway, as soon as the ice cream at the bottom becomes hard.
To sum up, the Cuisinart, for all its noise and low-tech-ness, is more user-friendly. The Cuisinart parts fit together and can be separated with ease. The New Air parts are more fiddly…. I really dislike that paddle. It’s messy to lift out of the canister. (Not that it is entirely a bad thing to get ice cream all over your fingers).
On the other hand, the New Air machine is very convenient if you don’t have time to hang around the kitchen watching and waiting for the ice cream to be done, and just want to load in the ingredients and push a button.
*UPDATE: I have used the New Air machine several more times and I am liking it more and more! It is especially convenient for fruit sorbets that don’t require ‘cooking’. Puree the ingredients, pour into the machine and it’s done in 30 minutes - perfect frozen consistency and ready to eat.
I have just signed up for the 2013 WHOLE LIFE CHALLENGE, a rigorous diet-exercise routine that forbids me to consume any DAIRY, SUGAR, or PROCESSED FOODS for 8 weeks. I see this as a creative cooking challenge and am quite excited about it. I am already making almond milk every few days.
What this means though is that for the next 8 weeks, my homemade ice cream menu will be limited to only two flavors: Cherimoya and Banana, which are basically PURE FRUIT - frozen and blended with a bit of almond milk or coconut milk.
I was in Malaysia and Hong Kong last month and vowed to consume some local ice cream flavors, which I did! Nope, no durian because I don’t really like the taste of durian, but I enjoyed samplings of jackfruit, soursop, starfruit, red bean ice creams. Yes, I have been inspired by my travels but it so happens that I am overwhelmed with work this month or I would be making more ice creams!
Flavors on my list include:
Kaya Toastice cream (This is a popular Malaysian breakfast)