My world has been humming these past few weeks. My mother and aunt aided me in introducing light and order to areas (for instance, the kitchen cabinets) of my home that were previously akin to the chaotic blackness of mythical pre-creation. In keeping with the making of a house a home, we've been fortunate enough to share our dinner table with various friends and family the past four nights in a row, which is something I take immense pleasure in. This Saturday we had a full house, fitting eleven adults, a toddler, and a baby around the dining room table for hot bowls of pho bo, lemongrass pork banh mi, and a large kale salad followed by the ice cream sandwiches pictured here. Preparing food for people whose company I enjoy is one of the chief pleasures in my life, right up there with travel and sex. My lust for life is, admittedly, literal and figurative. Something to do with Venus in Leo, something to do with the stars. I'm just so pleased to be a human being these days. I like to chop onions and weep, even. It's all so terribly interesting.
Wallace Stevens' poem above is not, as you may have gathered, about ice-cream per se; it's ostensibly about a wake, about death. But it isn't really about death either, rather, I think it's about life belonging to the living and choosing reality over appearance. The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream, that is to say, the sensual realm of the living reigns supreme over mute death. Life is the province of cigars and wenches and concupiscent curds. And to "let be be finale of seem" is the triumph of what is over what appears to be, the triumph of perfect imperfection over false perfection, the triumph of flowers wrapped in newspapers, bawdiness, and ice cream. It is, I think, an affirmation of the animate tempo and curious textures of daily life.
I give you another great author, Walter Pater's, definition of success in life, as his words are far finer than my own:
"To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. In a sense it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations, seem alike. While all melts under our feet, we may well grasp at any exquisite passion, or any contributions to knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange dyes, strange colours, and curious odours, or work of the artist's hands, or the face of one's friend. Not to discriminate every moment some passionate attitude in those about us, and in the very brilliancy of their gifts some tragic dividing of forces on their ways, is, on this short day of frost and sun, to sleep before evening."
This is our proverbial day in the sun. We're now deep in the season of swimming holes, insects, peaches, thunder, and the ice cream truck that rolls up and down the streets daily, announced by its calliope playing "Do Your Ears Hang Low?". Be here now. Make love & ice cream.
Oh, and I made Star Wars ice cream sandwiches in the likeness Darth Vader, Yoda, and Boba Fett. Because I could, and I have a long standing love affair with Star Wars. Epic? In space? Yes. Seriously. I know what the stripes on Han Solo's pants are called.
So, whether you enjoy dairy or abstain, I bid you whip in kitchen cups these concupiscent curds...
Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream
yields 1 quart
This custard based Thai iced tea ice cream is exactly what I'd hoped, a creamy marriage of spiced tea and sweet milk, not too weak and not too strong. Whether you sandwich it between two rich, chocolate wafers or two soft condensed milk cookies or simply eat it with a spoon, it's fantastic. It's the logical conclusion of Thai iced tea.
2 cups (480 mL) whole milk
1 cup (240 mL) heavy cream
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
5 Thai tea bags (of 1/2 cup loose leaf Thai tea)
5 egg yolks
In a sauce pan heat milk, cream, and condensed milk until steaming, almost boiling with little bubbles forming around the rim. Do not let it come to a boil. Add the tea and let steep for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove tea bags or strain out tea leaves using a cheese cloth lined sieve, a "tea sock", or a coffee filter. Return milk mixture to pot if you strained it. Return mixture to heat.
Whisk egg yolks in a heat proof bowl, and when milk mixture is hot slowly add a bit at a time to your egg yolks, whisking constantly to temper them. I usually add about a cup. Once tempered, whisk the egg yolk mixture back into the hot milk. Cook this over medium heat, stirring constantly for about five minutes, or until it reaches 170° F and coats the back of a spoon. Do not allow it to boil.
Remove custard from heat and strain immediately into a bowl. Chill thoroughly, 2-3 hours minimum and preferably over night. If need be it can be chilled quickly in a metal bowl in the freezer, stirring every 20 minutes or so until cool.
Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. I churn mine for 20 minutes. When the mixture looks like the consistency of whipped mashed potatoes, remove it into your desired container and place it in the freezer with plastic wrap pressed to the surface of the ice cream to finish hardening.
If making ice cream sandwiches, line a baking pan or sheet with parchment paper and spread the ice cream evenly to desired thickness. I usually spread it about 1-1 1/2 inches thick. Press plastic wrap to the surface and chill until hard enough to cut into desired shapes, 2-3 hours minimum.
Remove from freezer when ready to cut and use desired cookie or biscuit cutters (can be run under warm water to make cutting easier if the ice cream is very firm) to cut the ice cream into the same shape as your cookies. Sandwich between two cookies, wrap in plastic wrap, and return immediately to the freezer to harden.
Vegan Ginger Ice Cream
adapted from Have Cake Will Travelyields 1 pint
Studded with bits of candied ginger, this recipe will change your outlook on vegan ice cream completely. It's very creamy, not icy like they can be, though it does get quite hard when fully frozen, so it's best to sit it out for about ten minutes before serving. If you have long been searching for a creamy vegan ice cream recipe, please try this. It has a slightly tart flavor reminiscent of frozen yogurt or cheese cake and would make a great base for an infinite variety of flavors.
1 1/4 cups (300g) plain, unsweetened cultured coconut milk (or other non-dairy yogurt)
3/4 cup (180 g) Tofutti cream cheese (or other vegan cream cheese)
1/2 cup (96 g) sugar
1/2 Tbsp ginger powder
1 T finely chopped candied ginger (optional)
In a blender or food processer combine the yogurt, cream cheese, sugar, and ginger powder until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Stir in the chopped ginger if using and freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.
For ice cream sandwiches spread freshly churned ice cream on a parchment lined baking or sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface, and freeze until firm enough to cut into desired shapes and sandwiched between cookies.
Remove from freezer 10-15 minutes before serving to allow to soften.
Chocolate Roll Out Cookies
from smitten kitchen
yields about 36 3" round cookies
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup (75 grams) extra dark or Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder (you can use regular to good effect)
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks or 285 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Cooking DirectionsHeat oven to 350°F degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift the flour and cocoa together and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy. Add the yolks and vanilla and mix until combined, scrape down sides and mix briefly again. Add the flour mixture a little at a time then mix until combined.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and divide into two equal pieces. If the dough is too soft to handle, wrap and chill it until firm enough to roll out (No more than 30 minutes or the dough will become crumbly). Roll each batch a 1/4-inch thick and cut into desired shapes and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Use a wooden skewer (or other pointy object like the tip of a thermometer) to poke the cookies with holes. For my round cookies I did 14 holes. Sprinkle with sugar if desired.
Bake the cookies for 16 to 18 minutes, or until they stay firm when tapped in the center. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough, rerolling scraps as needed.
Vegan Chocolate Cookies (variation)
Follow the instructions above omitting the egg yolks and substituting Earth Balance sticks for the butter.
Condensed Milk Cookies
yields about 36 3 inch cookiesThese roll out cookies have a cake-like texture and a mild sweetness. In addition to ice cream sandwiches, these cookies would also be delicious served with tea or cut into festive shapes and decorated for the holidays. It's a great dough to have on hand as it can be made ahead and freezes beautifully.
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus up to an additional 1/2 cup
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling (optional)
1 (14 oz) can condensed milk
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Cream butter & sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until fluffy. Mix in eggs, vanilla, and condensed milk.
When combined add dry ingredients about one cup at a time and mix until just combined. If mixture appears too wet add up to another 1/2 cup of flour until desired consistency. Remember that the dough will chill & harden in the refrigerator before rolling out.
Divide dough into two discs and wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least half an hour and, if making ahead, up to three days. Dough can also be frozen at this point up to three months.
Heat oven to 350° F
Place dough on a floured work surface and roll out to 1/4-1/8 of an inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Using a wooden skewer or other object (like the tip of a thermometer) poke the cookies with holes. Sprinkle with sugar if desired.
Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes on racks. If using for ice cream sandwiches, place in a large ziplock bag and freeze. Otherwise they can be stored in an air tight container.