Category Archives: ice creams and sorbets

Frozen yogurt for Summer’s last hurrah

homemade frozen yogurt with mango

I know we’ve hit the dog days of Summer, those last few weeks of the season filled with fire and heat, a finale to end all finales–and it all coincides with Labor Day weekend, often considered the end of summer, even though summer does not officially end until September 22.

These days, the sun dawns warm, the day gets hot, then hotter. The vegetables in the garden limply bow their stems by the middle of the day, the curtains are drawn, and evening is a welcome, festive, and joyous time. In the Bay Area (and even in Berkeley and San Francisco where the fog is markedly absent), we’re going through a heat wave that is not letting us forget what time of year it is. We’ve had watermelon chilling in the fridge on a permanent basis, and for once, I wish we had an automatic ice cube maker.

I find the weather quite frightful, and so my eyes are turning towards all things icy. This means taking out my ice cream maker and putting the freeze on the heat. Or rather, leaving the bowl of my ice cream maker in the freezer on a permanent basis, ready at any time to be of service.

I was recently tasked by my editor at the magazine where I freelance to write an article on Pinkberry and frozen yogurt–and so these days, I’ve been curious about frozen yogurt. I grew up in Southern California, during the first wave of the frozen yogurt craze in the 1980s–going to Penguin’s and eating a yogurt piled high like soft serve, with toppings (m&m’s, heath bar crunch, nuts, etc., etc.) galore. The yogurt had a subtle tang, but seemed ashamed of its yogurt roots. Its intent was to taste like ice cream. And somehow, I found it “neither nor there.”

Oh, and how could I forget about Yogurt Park in Berkeley’s southside neighborhood, which I frequented so often as a college freshman? But that too, screamed “I want to be ice cream” more than anything.

Now it seems that frozen yogurt has taken on a pride of its own, embracing its tangy yogurt identity. It no longer feels compelled to taste like ice cream–and I like it much better this way, a rich and tangy and sweet dessert that stands all on its own.

homemade frozen yogurt with mango

And since there is no Pinkberry up here in the Bay Area, I thought I would make frozen yogurt at home, using David Lebovitz’s rich frozen yogurt recipe. (Again, his ice cream “cookbook” Perfect Scoop is The Bible of ice creams, sorbets, granitas, and frozen yogurts. I have yet to try a recipe of his that is a dud. Indeed, all the recipes are stellar).

It was so good that when I made it this morning before any of the household guests woke up…I ate some for breakfast, with some mango. I couldn’t resist. You can eat it plain, too, of course.

Oh, and for the record–that’s mango with the yogurt…a delicious, juicy, Kent mango (my favorite variety).

Recipe follows after the jump…
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Malted Milk Ice Cream

malted milk ice cream

Spring is winding its way to summer these days–and evidence is in the blooming flowers, pollen sprinkled like powder sugar on parked automobiles, in the increasing daylight hours, and increasing ambient temperatures. I am not a huge fan of summer and its heat, despite the season’s beauty, but there are always a handful of things that make this season a time of year I still enjoy greatly. Watermelons being one of them. And ice cream, too.

This is the time of year that ice cream can really shine, and I’d like to share an ice cream with you! Last year, I made a remarkable buttermilk ice cream–and today, I made an incredible malted milk ice cream.

I spotted a recipe for David Lebovit’z malted milk ice cream out of his book, Perfect Scoop on Ruhlman’s blog. I found Lebovitz’s headnote entrancing–so entrancing that I immediately decided to make his favorite malted milk ice cream:

I froze lots and lots and lots of ice cream when writing this book. It was a treat having freshly-made ice cream every day, but space in my freezer soon became an issue and after more than one frozen ‘brick’ of ice cream slipped out, which I always seemed to just narrowly avoid crashing down on my foot, I eventually realized that it was impossible (and a little dangerous) to coexist with too many flavors all at once. Consequently, I passed off lots of ice cream to friends, neighbors, local shopkeepers, and occasionally, a startled delivery man. All were more than happy to take a quart off my hands. But this Malted Milk Ice Cream was the one that I refused to part with, and I guarded it secretively, saving it all for myself.

malt balls for malted milk ice cream chopped malt balls for malted milk ice cream

I am a big fan of malted milk and malted ice cream. BIG fan. And so how could I resist?

I threw out the idea to our household, to smiles and nods. “How about I make some malted milk ice cream this weekend?” We went right to the store to gather the ingredients, which include malt balls (I already had malt powder) and lots of good whipping cream. I also picked up another carton of humane eggs.

malted milk ice cream

This recipe includes a good amount of egg yolks, and the bulk of the cooking involves making the custard, as with most ice cream recipes. Because I love vanilla, and I like myself a softer ice cream, I doubled the amount of vanilla in the cream/malt powder/vanilla mix (for the record, I used Nielsen-Massey’s Tahitian vanilla, which reportedly fares best in chilled dishes).

(for the record, I use a Cuisinart ice cream maker–best bang for the buck–but don’t forget to put the container in the freezer the night before!)

The result? Delectable.

The malt flavor has a strong presence, and the malt balls add a delightful crunch and an added dimension to the malt flavor. There are several reasons I love to make ice cream at home: one of the reasons being that I have control over the ingredients and produce a fresher, more natural, more delicious product…and another being I can perhaps try out ice creams and flavors that aren’t sold in stores.

This is one of those ice creams.


malted milk ice cream

Recipe follows after the jump…

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Yesterday, I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with my husband and my wonderful friends, Anne and Ryan.  Yes, I know this post is a day late, but just try to blog after drinking a few glasses of Black Bush with Black Velvet (Guinness and champagne) chasers, and see how far you’ll get. 

Although my family cannot claim to have any Irish blood in it whatsoever, my mom always liked to make corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day (my husband is about a quarter Irish, though).  And I know it’s currently in vogue to prepare more “authentic” meals than corned beef, I still like to make (and eat) it.   Besides, people expect it.  This year, I decided to supplement it a little bit, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover a St. Patrick’s Day menu in the Lucques restaurant cookbook when I was looking for a recipe for Guinness ice cream.  I surprised myself by preparing nearly the entire menu.

As a starter  (this wasn’t in the cookbook),  I served Irish chedder and Cashel blue (also Irish, from Neal’s Yard), and made Irish soda bread as an accompaniment.   The soda bread is pretty easy to make – I think my husband could make it.  But next time, I’ll forgo sprinkling the sugar on top.

The first course in the cookbook was a pureed watercress soup a la minute, with croutons spread with “gentlemen’s relish”.  The “relish” was basically an anchovy butter with shallots, parsley and lemon.  The soup was a little on the mild side, but the relish perked it up quite nicely.  I also threw in a bunch of chives at the end.

The next course was buttered cockles on champ.  Since “cockles” are pretty rare here on the west coast (they’re not indigenous to Northern America, nor are they farmed here), I substituted littleneck clams.  The clams are sauteed with green onions, then white wine (I substituted champagne) and broth are added to steam them open, then they’re finished with a handful of parsley, snow pea sprouts, peas, butter and more green onions.  Champ (pronounced “sham”)   is a traditional Irish mashed potato dish.  There’s as many versions of it as there are cooks making it, but it usually calls for loosely mashed potatoes with lots of butter, cream and green onions.  When we visited my father-in-law, he prepared a version with smoked ham and mayonnaise.  I decided to go tweak Lucques’ version, which called for green garlic instead of green onions (I used both).    I sauteed the aromatics in plenty of butter, added cream, then added unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes that were previously boiled whole and smashed with the heel of my hand, then mashed them a little further over the heat as the cream reduced and absorbed into the potatoes.  Yummy and heart-stopping.  Lucques’ cookbook also suggested served brown scones with this, but I decided that it was a (carb) bridge too far.   

The main course, obviously, was corned beef with boiled cabbage, turnips, potatoes and carrots.  Instead of boiling the brisket for the entire time, the Lucques cookbook says to just bring the brisket to a boil, add onions and spices, then cover to pot and cook it in the oven for four hours.  The brisket is then removed from the broth and baked in the oven in a separate dish at a higher temperature to “crisp” the top.  In the meantime, the other vegetables are cooked in the remaining broth.  I made a parsley-whole grain mustard-shallot sauce to go with this, but I think I would have like fresh horseradish as well. 

Finally, for dessert, we had Guinness chocolate spice bundt cake, with Guinness ice cream.  I’ve made Guinness chocolate cakes before, and the recipe I’d used previously was a dense 3 layer chocolate cake with a ganache frosting, which was quite a production to bake and assemble.  I think that the spices, along with the addition of molasses, in the cake served to add extra oomph to the Guinness flavor, which was overwhelmed by the chocolate in the previously made version.  The ice-cream also had molasses in it, which also served to amp up the Guinness flavor.  My husband, who proclaimed he’d only have “a little taste” of the ice cream, found himself scooping up a third serving.  The only difficulty I found with the ice cream is that it was slightly too icy.  Next time, I’ll use only cream and no milk, plus I’ll boil down the molasses with the Guinness a little longer. 

 Alas, I don’t have many pictures, but I take comfort in the fact the any pictures taken would have borne witness to general debauchery, so you’ll have to take my word that it was a tasty meal.  A hostess’s hint:  These courses are pretty heavy, so start serving early and space lots of time in between.  Do as much of the prep work (chopping all the veggies and herbs, baking the cake, making the sauces, freezing the ice cream, etc.) as possible the day before.  That way, you can celebrate instead of being stuck in the kitchen the entire time.  And, uh, it’s a lot easier to cook while inebrieted if your mise is already in place.

Ici-la (or Ici tasting part deux)

I’ve had this post cached since Christine published her write up of Ici, but I’ve just been too busy to edit. So here goes:

I think that I can always eat ice cream, no matter what the weather. The way I look at it is, if the weather’s cool and cloudy, there’s less of a line at the ice cream parlor! After all, I trudged to Berthillon in 30 degree weather on my first day in Paris… but there was still a line going out the door! (I had the salted butter caramel and the marron glace flavors) And a few weeks ago, I caught my coworkers giving me incredulous looks when I returned from a rainy lunch with a Jamba Juice. Luckily, the clouds dried up the weekend of our tasting and our Indian summer began.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when I’d arrived, because I’d been looking forward to tasting the fig flavor, which I’d noticed on my first visit. Ici always has chocolate and vanilla, but most of the other flavors are seasonal. Fig was no longer on the menu, but there were ten other flavors, and there’s nothing like ten scoops of ice cream to cheer you up! I surprised myself – my favorite ice cream was the chocolate. If I were just picking out a single scoop, I’d go for something a little more unusual, like the rose or the earl grey, but if I were taking home a quart, I’d choose the chocolate. Under normal circumstances, I would pick rocky road over plain chocolate, but this chocolate was rich, full flavored, smooth and creamy. It was really well balanced – not too sweet, but not too bitter or grainy. It was so good that the rocky road (usually my favorite ice cream flavor) paled in comparison. We suspected, and upon further inquiry confirmed that the chocolate used in each flavor was a different one. I think that if I hadn’t tried each of the flavors available, I probably would have been satisfied with the rocky road.

The concord grape sherbet was also very unique. No one chose it as a favorite, but we were all wowed by the sheer grapy intensity of the flavor and color. It almost tasted artificial. I was reminded of Barney, and Susan commented that it tasted just like grape juice. I think this is exactly the sort of flavor that little kids would like, sort of like bubble gum ice cream or rainbow sherbet. I’m sure if you ate enough of it, your tongue would be dyed purple!

The ice cream sandwiches have gotten a lot of press, so of course, we had to try them. Two were available – one was malted vanilla ice cream with a chocolate cookie, and the other was lime ice cream with a gingersnap. The vanilla and chocolate combo was yummy, but we really loved the lime and gingersnap combo. Instead of using the sherbet, Ici actually used a lime ice cream which also had a faint gingernote that was really highlighted by the lime gingersnap. Somehow, the cookie didn’t get soggy and retained its crispiness.

Sooooo since Ici rotates it’s flavors, I think we should do another tasting soon! Or we could try one of each flavor at Gelateria Naia…

ice cream tasting at ici

ice cream tasting at ici, originally uploaded by c(h)ristine.

Connie’s post on Ici’s opening earlier this month was so inspiring that we (Susan, Connie, and I–given that dear Melanie is out writing her heart out at Hedgebrook, and Eric as our “token Canadian” doesn’t live in the Bay Area) decided to go on a Muffin Top field trip and taste ALL of the flavors. For you, dear readers, we would make the sacrifice. And for awhile, it DID look like it might be slightly painful, given the cold and rainy weather this past week. But there is something to eating ice cream in wintry weather (well, that’s what I told myself).

However, we woke up today to clear skies and weather like Spring (and not Autumn) and jovial crowds of Cal football fans heading to the game–a perfect setting for a mid-day ice cream treat.

Susan, Connie, and I happily gathered in front of Ici ice cream and walked right up and said, “We want one scoop each of ALL your ice creams.” Oh, that felt SO good to say that. I have ALWAYS wanted to get a scoop of every damn ice cream in an ice cream parlor. That is like, one of my fantasy scenarios.

Apparently, no one has ever filled that scenario at Ici, because the employee behind the counter said, “We’ve never had that request before!” Then I whipped out the camera and started taking pictures, just to make things more conspicuous.

There are no places to sit at Ici. The place is small and focused on ice cream and kind of reminds me of a French-styled bathroom (the sterile mint green walls + tiles + marble give off a bathroom mien). I think it’s charming but not all that comfortable (this ice cream is certainly “to-go.”) But we eyed a little marble ledge that was just big enough to hold a biodegradable cup of ice cream. There, we laid down all 10 flavors in the current rotation: lime sherbet, maple-pinenut praline, chocolate, vanilla, rose, green tea, rock road, earl grey tea, cinnamon, and concord grape sherbet.

ice cream tasting at ici

The ice cream was wonderful. We ate in no particular order, just whatever struck our fancy. There was not one ice cream that was unanimously favorited (a good sign, I think)–and so for my post, I’ll discuss my favorites (I’ll leave it up to Connie and Susan to post their own opinions and experiences).

ice cream tasting at ici

Notable for me were the lime sherbet, rose ice cream, and earl grey ice cream. All the ice creams were good, but these stood out for me as unique and particularly tasty (the vanilla was the least remarkable–I think Haagen Dazs makes a better vanilla ice cream…and Connie remarked that she could make a better vanilla ice cream herself). The one ice cream that was very unique but not a winner in my book was the cinnamon ice cream–“On Apple pie!” we shrieked, but none of us were really won over by its strong and singularly cinnamon flavor.

The lime was (for lack of a more distinct descriptor) VERY LIME-Y! With a bit of a gingery kick (very very faint but distinctive) at the end. This sherbet has a full flavored zing that could work as a brilliant palate cleanser after entree, or just on its own. It is possibly the most refreshing sherbet I have had in a long time.

I am very picky about my rose ice cream. I’m always on the lookout for a good rose ice cream, but I’m usually disappointed by how “icy” and “watery” rose ice creams often are (including the venerable mashti’s). Ici makes a wonderfully creamy rose ice cream. Connie, an expert on so many culinary matters, thinks they use rose syrup as opposed to rose water for this kind of result. I am totally in love with this rose ice cream–and I especially love its faint peach color.

The earl grey tea ice cream was just so unusual, I’m inspired to make something similar with one of my Mariage-Freres teas at home. Could I pull off a rooibos ice cream? Ici’s earl grey tea ice cream has just the right balance earl grey flavor, we joked, “We should eat this with cucumber sandwiches!”

There are 7 more flavors plus 2 wonderful ice cream sandwiches we tasted–I’ll leave it to Susan and Connie to cover the rest of the bases!

Update: Connie’s Ici Tasting Part Deux here.

malted vanilla ice cream sandwich with chocolate cookies at ici


Ici opened on Labor day weekend.  So far, i have sampled both ice creams cakes (two are available – one with fruit flavors and one with chocolate flavors), the ice cream sandwiches and the coffee bonbons.  All are quite delicious.  The bonbons don’t look it, but carry quite a strong coffee punch, so be warned.  And I found the current (flavors change depending on what’s in season) fruit ice cream cake to be a revelation.  The base is vanilla chiffon, then it’s layered with strawberry ice cream, blackberry sorbet and creme fraiche ice cream.  It’s like three layers of tanginess, but each with its own complexities.  I’d never had anything like the creme fraiche ice cream… I suppose the mascarpone sorbet I’d made some time ago, or Christine’s buttermilk ice cream would be similar, but it managed to be milky, tangy and nutty at the same time.  De-lish.  Go check it out soon, but get there before I do, or there won’t be anything left! 

If cantaloupe is never cold enough: Cantaloupe Sorbet

homemade cantaloupe sorbet, originally uploaded by c(h)ristine.

I’m going to talk about two things that don’t seem to go together: personal trainers and desserts. This is because I challenged myself to make my personal trainer a dessert dish. Something healthy but delicious–what could I make?

My personal trainer, predictably, chides me for eating butter and ice cream. He is just so very opposed to dairy products, but I think it has to do with his own lactose intolerance. However, he is a fan of sorbet. I would make–sorbet!

But what flavor of sorbet? I wanted to make something that Haagen Dazs wouldn’t produce, so that nixed strawberry, mango, peach, and raspberry. I thought about cherimoya, but couldn’t find any. So I began to think about fruit that was very in season–landing on cantaloupe. Doug, my trainer, LOVES cantaloupe–he’s weaned me OFF watermelon by suggesting I eat more cantalouope in its place (“it’s the WORST of the fruits, do you know how much sugar is in watermelon?” he exclaims, much to my watermelon-loving dismay. “Try cantaloupe,” he proposed).

This makes a fantastic sorbet. Unlike many sorbet recipes, this does NOT require an ice cream maker, just a blender or a food processor. In many ways, it resembles granita.   Recipe follows…

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I scream, you scream

About three years ago, Anne and I drove down to LA to visit my friends Justin and Brian in their new Westwood condo. Although we arrived after midnight, they were still wide awake, drinking cosmopolitans and waiting for a batch of ice cream. “Huh?” we said. Justin had just purchased a Cuisinart ice cream maker from Costco so that he could tinker with some of Daniel Boulud’s gelato recipes he read in Elle Decor. The rest of the weekend was spent eating homemade ice cream and drinking cosmopolitans, flirtinis, mimosas, sangria and I don’t remember what else. I think a Ghost of the Robot (don’t ask) show might have been involved.

As soon as we returned to the Bay Area, I hauled myself straight over to Costco and purchased the same ice cream maker. That summer, I turned out many, many different kinds of ice creams and sorbets – chocolate, vanilla, coffee, caramel, orange, chocolate chip, rocky road, strawberry, peach, nectarine, mascarpone, raspberry sorbet, lemon, corn, and even blue cheese. It even got to the point where I purchased a second bowl so I wouldn’t have to wait as long for the first bowl to freeze (it takes about 24 hours)

Nowadays, my ice creams are pretty tame – vanilla, chocolate or raspberry sorbet. I’m usually looking for instant gratification. Okay, two hour gratification. But with all the sour cherries I’d been pitting, I’d been thinking about making noyau ice cream. Noyau is the pale white kernel inside cherries and apricots. You smash the pit with a mallet or use a nutcracker to extract it. Watch out for flying bits of shell. They’re razor sharp, so be sure pick them up off the ground. The kernel imparts a bitter almond flavor, and is the primary flavoring agent for amaretto. In addition, Justin loves almonds, especially almond ice cream, but unfortunately, he’s allergic to them. Noyau ice cream just might be an acceptable substitute. An extremely important note about noyau: surrounding the kernel is an cyanide-like enzyme. Roasting the kernels for about 15 minutes in the oven neutralizes the enzyme. While you probably won’t drop dead if you consume a little bit of raw noyau, it’s generally a good idea roast the kernels first. After I extracted and roasted mine, I ground them into a powder with a mortar and pestle, then heated them with the cream and sugar, and allowed them to steep for about half an hour before adding and tempering the egg yolks. You can use the kernels to flavor any basic ice cream recipe – use about 20 apricot pits or 40 cherry pits for every three cups of cream/milk. It goes especially well with a tart or pie made with the fruit you’ve just pitted. I’m having mine with an apricot galette.

reminds me of…shortcakes

homemade buttermilk ice cream!

Last year, a friend and I played hookie and made ice cream (that is what foodies do when they play hookie, I guess). I had collected, in anticipation of our (pre-planned) sick day, a slew of ice cream recipes: honey and lavender ice cream, french vanilla, maple walnut ice cream, and buttermilk ice cream, just to name a few. I rattled them the list off absentmindedly. “Buttermilk!” she clapped her hands.

So buttermilk ice cream it was. It was an adventure, having never made ice cream before. We didn’t realize the custard needed a 2 hour chilling and so we sat “idly” as it chilled. (Otherwise we would have planned a SECOND food item!) Um, and we thought the custard had to be near solid before putting it in the ice cream maker, so we stuck the custard in the freezer (not an advisable move, by the way).

And we ran the ice cream maker for an hour and a half, about three times too long, until the ice cream was hardened along the sides of the bowl. I didn’t realize at the time that all I had to was run the ice cream maker for about 30 minutes until it was a creamy slush, then allow it to harden in the freezer. That’s how I got a scratch on the inside of my ice cream maker bowl, running a metal spoon, trying to chisel the ice cream out!

But nonetheless, the tangy buttermilk ice cream was delicious. Nothing beats fresh ice cream.

I made a few more batches of ice cream–I tried out the honey lavender recipe. I’ll decrease the honey and increase the lavender next time. It was still delicious. But the ice cream maker has been at rest since last summer–and in an act of questionable intelligence, the thought of making ice cream did not occur to me until today. I mean, there’s been a heat wave, what other perfect food is there?

I collected my ice cream recipes again. Rose petal ice cream fascinated me. And so did blueberry ice cream. But again, buttermilk ice cream beckoned–maybe I’m just really lucky to have found the perfect ice cream flavor on my first try.

This time, I chilled the custard in the refrigerator not the freezer, and I let the ice cream maker run for a proper amount of time, 30 minutes. And after some subsequent chilling in the freezer, served it with strawberries and blueberries. The buttermilk in the ice cream is such a classic flavor pairing with the berries–like strawberry shortcakes! Except with the surprising cold creamy texture of ice cream alongside the fruit, instead of cake.

Try it, you’ll love it too.

from Bon Appétit
1 cup whipping cream
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cold buttermilk

Bring whipping cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk egg yolks and sugar in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk hot cream into egg yolk mixture. Return mixture to saucepan and stir over medium heat until custard thickens slightly, about 6 minutes (do not boil). Strain into bowl. Stir in 1 cup cold buttermilk. Refrigerate custard until cold, about 2 hours. Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. (Can be prepared up to 5 days ahead. Freeze in covered container.)

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.