Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Peter Peter Pumpkin Ice Cream Eater

The jury's out. My pumpkin pie ice cream (with cinnamon cookies representing pie crust) is just alright. Everyone who sampled it said the flavour was good but the texture was off. And I agree. Perhaps it was from adding an extra tablespoon or two of rum (I couldn't resist!) or not letting the ice cream soften at room temperature long enough, but the ice cream wasn't as creamy as I hoped and it came out more icy in texture. There was also a dry after taste perhaps from too much cinnamon? All in all, this pumpkin ice cream is enjoyable enough for me but I wouldn't serve it to Peter or future guests. It was a fun experiment though!

Here's the recipe for those interested. I found it on a blog by David Lebovitz, the god of ice cream.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

'Tis The Season

I love this time of year, especially in San Francisco. You can feel the season change, just enough to bring out the sweater, scarf and boots, yet it never gets that cold. It's also a fun time of year because my birthday is in November, Thanksgiving arrives with 2 days off and Christmas comes before we know it. Bah, it's hard to be humbug!

So in the spirit, I got back into ice cream practice with two seasonal staples -- pumpkin and eggnog. But they both seemed boring on their own. I rummaged the cabinets and found some leftover walnuts and Trader Joe's cinnamon schoolbook cookies. I toasted the walnuts and crumbled the cookies but now I can't decide which belongs with which ice cream. The texture and taste of the cookies could resemble the crust of pumpkin pie while the crunchy, salty nuts could balance the richness and sugary sweetness of egg nog. I think that's the pairing! I'll let you know how it turns out in the morning after it goes through the maker. Then I'm shopping! It's also that time of year for fabulous sales. Too fun!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A New Home

From an old 1908 Victorian in historic Nob Hill to a shiny new condo in up and coming Rincon Hill, my ice cream maker has a new home. And it loves it! No more shoddy kitchen. No more cramped counter space. Best of all, no more ants marching single file straight into my fridge and freezer. Ice cream making and cooking will never be the same! The only sign of ants now is this.

Well, hello there Mr. Ant. Aren't you cute? I promise not to Raid you! (Special thanks to Deirdre, my former upstairs neighbour, for the perfect housewarming card!)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

An American Original

After ascending the top of Angel Island, a hearty lunch and margaritas at Guaymas in Tiburon and a pretty ferry ride back to San Francisco, my friends and I craved dessert. Jason wanted Cara's Cupcakes but it just closed so we opted for ice cream. Unfortunately, the long line of tourists, overly-sweet smell of chocolate along with a pricey $8.25 hot fudge sundae at Ghiradelli Square prompted us to give up our killer parking spot and we headed to Swensen's Ice Cream Parlour - by far the better move.

This is the first and original location that Earle Swensen opened at the corner of Union & Hyde (a few blocks from my apartment) in 1948. Now there are over 300 Swensen's ice cream outlets worldwide churning premium ice cream "as good as (Earle's) father used to make." Sarah emerged with a hot fudge sundae and I came out with mocha fudge in a waffle cone, both for under $10.

The menu at Swensen's is traditional. It even sounds retro - Rocky Road, Cookies and Cream, Almond Praline Delight, Mocha Fudge compared to Humphrey Slocombe and Bi-Rite Creamery, who concoct innovative flavours of green tea black sesame seed, kumquat poppy and pistachio bacon. Sometimes in today's age of artisanal and gourmet, old-fashioned is a nice return.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hubba Hubba Hubby Hubby

Way to go Ben & Jerry's! To celebrate Vermont's new same-sex marriage law, which passed today, the ice cream maker renamed their signature Chubby Hubby flavour to Hubby Hubby. Too bad it's only available in Vermont. I wanna get my hetero-hands on the special sundae in stores only!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Best Ice Cream Parlours in SF

I'm finally back and sorry for the hiatus. Life got very busy after my last post in March. I traveled to Peru (Andes mountains trek, Machu Picchu and Lima), New York, Boston, Calgary, Banff and Vancouver. At work, I clocked in some long hours and launched a couple of brand new products into the market. I'm also searching for a home to buy and training for a half-marathon. Does that help justify my absence from this blog?

Lately it seems all my spare time is devoted to running. I assume I'm burning lots of calories so it's a perfect time to get back into ice cream because I can do it *guilt-free*! I'll try to be super diligent, dust off the ol' machine and start making some more. Until then I'll get my post-run ice cream fix at some of the best parlours (spelled the English and Canadian way) in town. Here's the top eight according to Gourmet magazine.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ice Cream War

I just learned from another friend who's into ice cream that Haagen-Daz is reducing the size of their pints from 16 ounces to 14 ounces, prompting Ben & Jerry's to strike. No wonder Haagen-Daz is on sale at the supermarket. They're trying to sell off the bigger pints! But in this economic recession, is it better to downsize pints or people?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Been Caught Cheating

I know you're supposed to "eat your own dog food" but tonight I'm cheating and enjoying my favourite ice cream of all time - Haagen-Daz Caramel Cone. But let me explain! As I walked down the aisle at Cala Foods today, I saw 3 pints for $10. How could I resist a sale? I guess this means I need to start searching for a caramel cone recipe to make but this Haagen-Daz original is gonna be hard to match.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Fine Balance

It just keeps getting better and better. Tonight I made double chocolate peanut butter ice cream and took it one step further by tossing in chunks of peanut butter cups. Striking the right balance can lead to perfection and this came pretty darn close.

This is why I love Haagen Daz more than Ben & Jerry's. B&J overdoes the extras, while HD manages a nice balance of ice cream and extras, which leaves me wanting for more. I was concerned this batch of ice cream would get excessive if I added chunks of PB cups since there was already a double dose of chocolate (the remainder of the Scharffen Berger bar and cocoa powder) plus the creaminess and richness of all-natural peanut butter drizzled in. But fortunately it worked!

Next time though, I'll use Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, my favourite mass-produced chocolate bar, instead of Trader Joe's. The practical side of me knew I'd get more bang for my buck if I bought the Trader Joe's branded 16 ounce container from the specialty grocery store chain versus individually packaged Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Now I have lots of leftover PB cups to nibble on when I'm not getting fat on ice cream.

Speaking of...somebody please tell me to put down my spoon *right now* as I'm starting to feel a bit sick from eating too many scoops of this chocolaty-peanuty fineness. All you people on diets out there, you're missing out!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Win, Lose, A Draw

The two chocolate ice creams battled to a draw and were devoured by the Oscar party-goers. (Thanks Annika for hosting!). It was difficult to determine which was the party favourite. My friend Jason, a food connaiseur in his own right, preferred the "Harvey Milk Chocolate" because it was just like biting into a piece of dark chocolate. I, on the other hand, loved "Mud Chocolate Wrestling" since it tasted exactly what chocolate ice cream should be like - creamy, velvety and not too dense or over-powering. Good thing Sean Penn won the Oscar for playing Harvey Milk because I awarded the Oscar for Best Ice Cream to the other one, "Mud Chocolate Wrestling." I wonder if Mickey would agree...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Surprise Ingredient

The second chocolate recipe I tried tonight had an ingredient that I never thought to use in ice cream - cream cheese (1/4 cup). This was the first time I used half-n-half instead of whole milk/heavy cream and this version doesn't have eggs. I also halved the amount of Scharffen Berger since too much fine artisan chocolate can be overwhelming. This recipe was simple and quick to make and had a syrupy texture after cooking compared to the base of yesterday's ice cream, which turned out so rich and thick, it was like a frozen mousse. It'll be interesting to see how this one comes out after a night of refridgeration and a churn in the machine.

As mentioned in my previous post, the ice cream will be dessert for a small Oscar get-together tomorrow. My friend Kymm is a huge Mickey Rourke fan and she convinced me to see his movie, so I'll dedicate this recipe to her and call it, "Mud Chocolate Wrestling."

And in honour of a great movie and an even greater man, I'll name the batch of ice cream I made yesterday, "Harvey Milk Chocolate."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Next Up, Chocolate

After a busy few weeks and a weekend trip to Vancouver, I'm back to making ice cream and about to complete a Neapolitan trifecta - I attempted vanilla, strawberry and now chocolate!

I'm trying two chocolate recipes (one has an unexpected ingredient) to see if there's a noticeable difference in taste, texture and consistency. I'm bringing both to an Oscar gathering on Sunday for a taste test and curious to know which they'll like better. But I'm 100% sure that choosing quality chocolate is the way to go. I picked Scharffen Berger over Hersheys or Ghirardelli, and yes, I used the entire 9.7 ounces (275 g) of dark chocolate bliss. Organic Clover milk, cream and eggs were also used. Once I heated and cooled the base mixture, it turned out thicker and creamier than any of my previous batches, like a pudding, and the chocolate flavour was super intense and decadent. I can't wait to throw it in the machine tomorrow and try in its frozen form!

But this may be the last time I splurge on such wonderful ingredients after seeing the bill at the Whole Foods check-out counter. I'll either have to start making more economical, recession-friendly ice cream or possibly give up shoe shopping.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Berry Good?

For my second batch, I'm trying out another classic flavour - strawberry. The process, I'm learning, is about the same each time. I start with a base consisting of milk, cream, sugar and eggs (this time 4 yolks and 1/4 cup less sugar), heat to a low boil, simmer and refridgerate overnight. The new step is adding the "extras" near the end of the churning cycle in the machine. To prepare the strawberries for the ice cream, I cut up 3 cups of fresh organic strawberries and let it soak in lemon juice, sugar and a tablespoon of rum (yay, another excuse to break out the Flor de Cana!). Then I pureed half the mixture and together with the strawberries pieces, I brought it to a boil and let it cool. With 5 minutes to go in the machine, I slowly poured in the strawberries and watched the pink swirls form.

Now I'm having a mandatory sample, and mmm...it's berry berry good. The texture is a bit soft, like a thick milkshake, but a couple hours in the freezer will produce a firmer consistency. It could use another cup of strawberries too. But it's definitely tasty enough to share and I'm bringing in 4 little scoops in mini-souffle cups to my co-workers tomorrow for an afternoon pick-me-up. The biggest scoop is reserved for Mr. Roger Federer, who lost the Australian Open yesterday to Mr. Rafael Nadal, and it broke my heart to see him cry after the tournament. I definitely think strawberry ice cream will cheer him up.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Year of the Ox

Every Chinese New Year, I call my parents to wish them a "Gung Hay Fat Choy" but that's usually the extent of my celebration. This year, I thought I'd try something different and follow a few of the traditions. Leading up to New Year's Day, you're supposed to give your home a thorough cleaning to sweep away last year's bad luck and bring in the good, so guess what I did all day? My hours of scrubbing better translate into loads of luck!

The biggest event on Chinese New Year's Eve is dinner and many symbolic foods are served. I invited my friend Marisa to join me. Typically the meal centers around a whole fish, which symbolizes togetherness and abundance. Chicken should also be presented whole to signify completeness. Noodles should be left uncut to represent long life. Oranges symbolize wealth and good fortune, as China's most plentiful fruit.

My dinner incorporated these traditions but the thought of gutting the fish and cooking the chicken with head, tail and feet attached...ewwww! Traditions are great but hey I'm a modern gal. Instead, I made filet of rockfish with black bean sauce on a bed of bok choy and stir-fried Shanghai noodles with chicken breast and veggies. (I didn't cut the noodles! Hooray for longevity!)

For dessert, we naturally had ice cream (a scoop of the vanilla bean that I made last week) with fresh mango and we drizzled my prized possession from Nicaragua, Flor de Cana rum that's been aged for 12 years, over top. Oh my, it was a delicious combination.

Thanks Marisa for sharing this celebration with me and being my first friend to sample my ice cream. And here's to a happy and prosperous year of the Ox to you all!

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Logo

It's Friday and a bit slow at work so I just whipped up a logo in PowerPoint of all things. Considering where I'm employed, you'd think I'd have access to some fancy design tools. 

Next I'll create labels to stick on the take-out containers I bought from Smart & Final. That way when I share my ice cream with friends, it'll look all pretty. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

What a special and historic moment as I watched Barack Obama being sworn in as President. I've been in the U.S. for 9 years now and today I finally feel American. 

There are so many celebration events taking place but here's one to note - the Inaugural Luncheon - ice cream is on the menu!

First Course: Seafood Stew

Second Course: A Brace of American Birds (pheasant and duck) served with Sour Cherry Chutney and Molasses Sweet Potatoes

Third Course: Apple Cinnamon Sponge Cake and Sweet Cream Glace

Monday, January 19, 2009

The First Scoop

Excitement! Tonight I completed my very first batch of ice cream, which was a success. The machine: 2 quart Cuisinart ICE-30 BC in stainless steel. The flavour: vanilla bean. I chose this for its classic simplicity and richness. It's the Chanel No. 5 of ice cream. To begin, I whipped together milk and heavy cream, sugar and a surprising amount of egg -- 4 yolks and 3 whole eggs to be exact. It was also the first time I split apart a vanilla bean, which had a strong, fragrant aroma like the smell of fresh coffee beans. I let the milk and cream mixture come to a slow boil then a simmer for 30 minutes. At this point, I noticed the texture was thickening and becoming more clumpy. Is this good or bad? After I combined all the ingredients together, I set the bowl in the fridge to chill overnight. Then I let the machine get to work (albeit quite noisily!).

The next morning, m.creamcone, the name of my ice cream, was born thanks to a fun brainstorm session with my friend Rachel over IM. This evening, the name was seconded by another friend Mike, who I just traveled with to Nicaragua, and he even came up with a future flavour -- Red Bull and Vodka. Very creative!

It's with this kind of creativity that I hope my ice cream will eventually become. My aspiration along the way is to develop a sophisticated palette and create unique flavours with flair and fun. But before that can be, I must perfect the base from which I can experiment with. As mentioned, tonight's first batch was considered a success in that it came out creamy and very edible, however it had too much of an egg-y taste, more like the custard that my mom used to bake. It was also a bit too sweet. (I'm trying another recipe next time and cutting down the sugar). Compared to Haagen-Daz's Vanilla Bean, I have a long way to go but what a delicious and decadent standard to aim for.