Close

Honey-Cinnamon Ice Cream

You’ll scream for this ice cream recipe…

I decided to attempt another dessert for this week’s post. (God forbid I post another kind of soup!) This blog was seriously lacking in sweets, and what is a more classic summer treat than ice cream? Not only is there a considerable amount of history behind the origins and evolution of ice cream, but there is also some awesome science behind how it is made as well.

In all fairness to my love of soup, though, for most of my childhood, I used to drive my step-dad crazy by mashing and stirring my ice cream into a melted, soupy mess. He always preferred his ice cream to be so rock-hard that it was nearly impossible to even scoop out of the container. I suppose you could say that I finally grew out of playing with my food. Although, I consider this food blog nothing more than a formal examination of how people throughout history have played with food and created time-tested favorite dishes and masterpieces.

Anyhow, here’s your food lesson for the week:

The custard mixture must be scalded twice before freezing.

The custard mixture must be scalded twice before freezing.

The speculated origin for ice cream is China, but the actual time period is a bit fuzzy. Of course, numerous myths surrounding the origin of ice cream muddy the waters even further. As with most mainstream foods today, ice cream began as a nearly unattainable food item for only the wealthy and royal.

The biggest challenge to the spread of ice cream recipes and, therefore, its popularity, was the ability to obtain ice and then preserve it. Special icehouses were created to store ice that was collected from bodies of water and areas of high elevation during colder seasons. Here, they were stored within layers of straw and other crude, naturally occurring insulation, where the ice would usually remain frozen throughout the warmer seasons, preserving perishable food and serving as a way for people to cool drinks or make frozen treats.1

As global travel and exploration spread, so did cultural and religious beliefs. Along major trade routes, various ingredients and culinary methods and traditions followed as well.

A man in Naples, Italy, named Antonio Latini (1642–1692) was the first person to record a recipe for sorbetto (or, as we know it, sorbet). He is also credited by many food historians as the creator of a milk-based sorbet, which is considered the first “official” ice cream.2

The Kitchen Aid ice cream attachment really simplifies the churning process.

The Kitchen Aid ice cream attachment really simplifies the churning process.

Eventually, nested containers were used to freeze the custard, yet keep it contained away from the ice. Rock salt became an integral part of this process as well. Why? It has a funny way of lowering the freezing point of water. Salt is used in the outer chamber of these ice cream makers to cause chemical reactions, which melt the ice and freeze the custard.3 The warmer cream mixture essentially gives up its energy (heat) causing it to slowly freeze. The ice absorbs this heat energy via an endothermic reaction, causing it to melt. Thank you for the ice cream, science!

After arriving in the Americas (with its first mention in the 1700s), ice cream caught on with presidents and aristocracy alike.4 Industrialization eventually blessed us with reliable methods of refrigeration, which allowed the masses to enjoy this creamy, refreshing treat. Americans took it and ran, creating all manners of ice cream including sundaes, cones, sandwiches, ice cream sodas, baked Alaska, and the list goes on and on.

In this recipe, I used raw honey, grass-fed dairy products, and quality cinnamon to infuse the custard with lots of warm, rich flavors.

Honey-Cinnamon Ice Cream

(from Epicurious.com)

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cinnamon stick, 2 inches long
  • 8 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
The custard needs to be strained before churning.

The custard needs to be strained before churning.

Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan. Break up the cinnamon stick into several small pieces, and add it to the pan. Over medium-high heat, scald the milk mixture (bubbles will form around the edge of the mixture, but you don’t want it to boil). Remove the pan from the heat and allow the cinnamon to steep in the dairy mixture for about an hour.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until well blended, then whisk in the honey, sugar, and ground cinnamon. After these ingredients are combined, return the milk mixture to the stove. Over medium-high heat, scald it again.

Slowly add the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture small amounts at a time, while whisking constantly. Once both of these mixtures have been incorporated, return the entire mixture to the saucepan over medium heat once more. Cook for approximately 6 to 8 minutes while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. At first, it will seem thin, but then it will steam and immediately thicken. When it coats the back of the spoon, it is done. Remove the pan from the heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve into an airtight container. Mix in the salt, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until it is cold.

Churn the cold mixture in an ice cream maker according to the appliance’s directions. Once it is finished churning, place the ice cream in the freezer for at least two hours so that it can ripen and the flavors can develop further.

Sources:
  1. Theobald, Mary. (Spring 2010). Some Cold, Hard Historical Facts about Good Old Ice Cream. Colonial Williamsburg Journal. Retrieved from http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/spring10/icecream.cfm
  2. Avey, Tori. (2012, July 10). Explore the Delicious History of Ice Cream. The History Kitchen. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/explore-the-delicious-history-of-ice-cream/
  3. Endothermic Ice Cream (2009, September 23). Cenco Physics (Weblog). Retrieved from http://blog.cencophysics.com/2009/09/endothermic-ice-cream/
  4. Olver, Lynne. (2004). Food Timeline FAQs: ice cream and ice. The Food Timeline. Retrieved from http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodicecream.html

Savory Breakfast Strata

If you’ve never heard of strata, you’ve seriously been missing out. It is one of the most simple, delicious, versatile, and affordable options for breakfast, brunch, or a potluck. Strata is basically a fancy name for a savory bread pudding so named for its alternating layers (strata) of bread, custard, cheese, and various other toppings. The following recipe is one of my favorites, but strata can basically be made with any coordinating combinations of vegetables, cheeses, meats, and herbs that you prefer.

I assembled this one in a flash after dinner on Monday and put it into the fridge to soak overnight. Tuesday morning I woke up a little earlier than usual to take it out, let it warm up on the counter, and then bake it in the oven before heading off to work. My coworkers loved it, and my boss even washed my casserole dish and wrote me a thank you note! I think I may have to make another one very soon since it was such a hit. (Unfortunately/fortunately, the dish disappeared so quickly that I didn’t have time to take hardly any pictures!)

Now here’s your weekly dose of food history:

One of the earliest known strata recipes supposedly comes from a 1902 cookbook by Juniata L. Shepperd entitled Handbook of Household Science.1 Oddly enough, this cheese strata recipe does not include eggs, which are characteristic of most (if not all) contemporary versions. Nonetheless, I’m bound to fall in love with anything featuring copious amounts of cheese, so I suppose I can find it in my heart to forgive Ms. Shepperd for her omission.

As I mentioned above, strata is basically a variation on bread pudding, which has an interesting history. Like many popular dishes nowadays, bread pudding had humble origins. European lower classes in the 11th and 12th centuries repurposed stale bread into “poor man’s pudding” or bread pudding to make the most of their meager resources.2 Even in today’s recipes for bread pudding and strata, using stale bread is crucial so that it adequately soaks up the custard that is poured over it. Custard has a more complicated background, but many food historians are of the opinion that the custard we are familiar with today originated in the Middles Ages, typically as a filling for pies, tarts, and other pastries.3

Regardless of whether you’re making any version of sweet or savory strata or pudding, remember to let your imagination (and sometimes your pantry) guide you when it comes to choosing toppings. Anything goes!

IMG_4470Sausage, Fontina, and Bell Pepper Strata

(adapted from Bon Appétit, June 2009)

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 2 cups sliced green onions
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • ½ cup finely grated Romano cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1 large red bell pepper, halved, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 1-pound loaf rustic French bread, cut into ½-inch slices and allowed to sit out briefly
  • 2 ½ cups coarsely grated Fontina cheese (or even more, if you prefer things extra cheesy)

Butter the bottom and sides of a 13×9-inch baking dish. Whisk the first 7 ingredients* together in a large bowl, and season well with freshly ground pepper.

The assembled dish, prior to setting and baking.

The assembled dish, prior to setting and baking.

In a large nonstick skillet, sauté the sausage and bell peppers, making sure to break up the meat well. Once the sausage is cooked through and the peppers are brown in spots, remove from the heat.

In the prepared baking dish, arrange half of the bread slices in the bottom, and then pour half of the egg mixture over the top. Sprinkle with one cup of the Fontina, then add half of the sausage/pepper mixture. Repeat this layering process once more. Use the final ½ cup of grated Fontina to sprinkle over the very top.

Allow the ingredients to stand in the dish for at least 20 minutes, occasionally pushing on the bread to encourage it to submerge. (I recommend covering it with plastic wrap and placing it in the fridge overnight with a few small plates on top to aid the bread in soaking up the custard.)

When you are ready to bake the strata, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake until golden brown, approximately 1 hour. If you let the strata set in the fridge, you may want to remove it to the counter prior to baking in order to take the chill off the dish and reduce the baking time. If the top begins to brown too quickly, cover the dish with a GREASED sheet or two of aluminum foil so that the cheese doesn’t burn or stick to the covering.

* I have noticed that when I buy bigger loaves of bread, the designated amount of custard in this recipe (first 7 ingredients) may not be enough. If your strata seems dry after soaking briefly, just whisk together another couple of eggs and a few splashes of milk and cream and pour it over the top. It won’t hurt anything, and it’ll ensure that your strata will turn out moist and not so bready.

Sources
  1. Shepperd, J. L. (1902). Hanbook of Houshold Science. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=HTRDAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA241#v=onepage&q&f=false
  2. McFadden, J. (2008, January 23). Bread pudding originated in 11th century as frugal dish, but has become trendy dessert. The Daily Gazette. Retrieved from http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2008/jan/23/0123_pudding/?print
  3. Olver, L. (1999) The Food Timeline. Retrieved from http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodpuddings.html#bread

Cherry Clafoutis

This rustic French dish is an easy and elegant option for dessert, breakfast, or brunch.

This week has been an exciting and dizzying experience. Monday marked the beginning of my first full time job (hello, adulthood!), and I couldn’t be happier with my current situation right now. However, I have to admit that I have been scrambling to balance work and experimenting in the kitchen. When I found this recipe during my research, I thought it would be a perfect dish to add to my repertoire. Although it has a fancy-sounding French name (I mispronounced it horribly when trying to explain this week’s post to my mom and co-workers), the recipe is very simple—only a few steps!

As much as it pained me to come home from work earlier this week and start littering my kitchen with sugar, flour, and cherry juice (aka baking), it was well worth it. The result was a flavorful, mildly sweet custard full of ripe, warm cherries, and it totally hit the spot. Cherries are in season and at their sweetest during the next couple of weeks, so get them while you can!

I brought the leftovers in to work this morning, and by the end of the day, only one piece was left! I’d consider that a success, especially since this recipe was the first time I had ever used a cherry pitter, and I accidentally missed a few of the stones…

Cherry pitters are magical, but I learned the hard way that you still need to be extra thorough when removing the pits.

Cherry pitters are magical, but I learned the hard way that you still need to be extra thorough when removing the pits.

I’d like to think that they simply added some extra flavor to the dish since the original recipe calls for unpitted cherries. (At least that’s what I told my new guinea pigs/colleagues!)

Lastly, though clafoutis is considered a dessert, I think that this dish could easily be the star of a breakfast or brunch table as well. Not to mention it is easily adaptable for whatever fruit happens to be in season. So, read on to learn a bit more about this versatile dish, hit up the grocery store for some fresh fruit, and get your clafoutis on:

First of all, let’s start with the pronunciation. Here’s a quick recording of how to say the name of this dish without sounding completely silly like yours truly:

Clafoutis first originated in the Limousin region of France, where, due to the unique geography of the area, farming is particularly successful. Historically, the cuisine of this region is reliant upon local ingredients, making for simple, rustic dishes.1 The name clafoutis can supposedly be traced to the Occitan dialect word claufir, to cover or fill.2 Traditionally, a Limousin clafoutis is prepared with unpitted cherries, but when it uses other kinds of fruit instead, it is called a flaugnarde.

Cherries are a member of the genus Prunus, which belongs to the Rose family (Rosaceae).3 These small stone fruits are actually closely related to peaches, apricots, and even almonds. It is said that the original clafoutis recipe included the cherry pits in order to provide a subtle almond flavor to the dessert. Surprisingly enough, this distinct flavor comes from a natural poisonous compound that plants in the Prunus family produce in order to discourage herbivores from chowing down on them. This toxin, amygdalin, is a precursor to a chemical I’m sure you all have heard of: cyanide.3

Now, before you jump to the conclusion that I’m trying to poison you with a delicious French dessert, it’s important to know that cyanide gas is a miniscule byproduct of consuming ingredients like cherry pits that contain amygdalin. I would suggest eating around the pits if you choose to leave them whole in your clafoutis, but you certainly won’t experience any detrimental effects from accidentally swallowing or nibbling on a few of them. (The difficult part would be trying not to break a tooth!) Another less potent and more enjoyable byproduct of amygdalin is benzaldehyde, which is responsible for that lovely almond flavor.IMG_4263

(Later this week I plan to experiment with adding a dash of almond extract to the custard in order to more closely replicate the traditional recipe’s flavors. I’ll post an update with my conclusions!)

As for the unpitted vs. pitted decision, for me, it boiled down to when and how I wanted to work around the pits: either before baking with a cherry pitter or after baking with my teeth. Personally, I’d rather get them out of the way so I can enjoy my dessert without risking an emergency trip to the dentist. I’m also still contemplating what the proper etiquette for consuming an unpitted clafoutis would be… a clafoutis spittoon?

Cherry Clafoutis

(adapted from Saveur at http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Cherry-Clafoutis)

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons sugar (adjustments may be necessary depending on the ripeness of your fruit)
  • 2 tablespoons kirschwasser
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups ripe cherries, pitted or unpitted (or other fruit of your choice)
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Thoroughly grease the bottom and sides of a 9″ cast-iron skillet or baking dish with butter. In a blender, combine the butter, milk, sugar, kirsch, vanilla, eggs, and salt to form the base of your custard. Blend these ingredients together, then incorporate the flour and process until smooth–about 1 minute.

Clafouti just prior to going into the oven.

Clafoutis just prior to going into the oven.

Pour the custard into the greased skillet, then evenly distribute the cherries atop the batter. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the batter comes out clean and the top is golden.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with a dollop of whipped cream on the side.

  1. Limousin: the “château d’eau”. (n.d.). France.fr. Retrieved from http://www.france.fr/en/regions-and-cities/limousin-chateau-deau.html
  2. Cloake, F. (2013, August 29). How to cook the perfect cherry clafoutis. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2013/aug/29/how-to-cook-perfect-cherry-clafoutis
  3. Preston, K. A. (2012, August 30). The Stone Fruits of Summer [Web log]. Retrieved from https://botanistinthekitchen.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/the-stone-fruits-of-summer/#more-65
Italian Home Kitchen Blog

Italian Home Kitchen Blog

Food Fellowship and Wine

A celebration of all things good

My Meals are on Wheels

Life and Cooking from a Wheelchair

Cooking Without Limits

Food Photography & Recipes

Round Two

"Life is better than we expected."

Cooking Up The Pantry

Feeding a hungry family!

Crafty Coin

Tips for how to budget and live frugally

Plant Based Protagonist

Protagonist: An advocate or champion for a particular cause or idea

%d bloggers like this: