I, like many people, have control issues when it comes to ice cream. When I was a kid and I tasted Blue Bell’s Cookies & Cream for the first time, it was over for me. My mom would wonder in awe at how a gallon of the stuff could disappear from our freezer in a matter of days. Now that I’m an adult, I mostly refrain from having ice cream in the house because I understand the power of my addiction. But, then again…YOLO, am I right? So I thought a good compromise would be to start making my own ice cream at home. The quality would be better, I would find it more rewarding, and hopefully seeing with my own eyes all the effort (and appalling amount of heavy cream) that goes into making it, I might be able to refrain from eating an entire quart in one sitting. Maybe.
My friend Christine recommended I check out the Bi-Rite Creamery’s Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones cookbook for ice cream recipes, so I did just that and checked it out from the always fabulous Foster City Library. If you don’t know yet about Bi-Rite (I didn’t until I moved to the Bay Area) it’s a legendary ice cream parlor in the Mission that always has a ridiculous line of people a mile long standing outside of it. Austin people should imagine the line at Franklin BBQ, but three times as long and subject to the brutal San Francisco wind and rain. I’ll go ahead and say it, I think waiting in that line is stupid. When I saw it for the first time I wanted to get on a megaphone and tell everyone that there was perfectly good ice cream to be found at the grocery store. But, and it pains me a little to admit this, the quality and flavor selection of Bi-Rite really is a little worth it. Still, that line makes me so angry! The solution? Make that stuff at home.
Jacob’s birthday was last week and I wanted to make a dessert that would knock his socks off. So over three days I secretly worked on these Balsamic Strawberry & Dark Chocolate Cookie ice cream sandwiches, and it really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. If I wasn’t trying to keep it a secret, I could have done it in one long day.
The cookbook is written in a very straightforward and honest way. The authors (Bi-Rite Creamery owners Kris Hoogerhyde and Anne Walker, along with writer Dabney Gough) talk at length about the process of developing Bi-Rite’s favorite flavors and make suggestions for ways you can create imaginative flavors of your own. It is divided into sections based on flavor varieties: vanilla, caramel, chocolate, coffee and tea, nuts, berries, citrus, herbs and spices and tropical fruits. In addition to ice cream recipes, they have recipes for cakes, cookies and other delights to complement the ice cream in wonderful ways: Snickerdoodles to crush into Salted Caramel ice cream, Gingerbread to serve as a base for a Pumpkin Pie ice cream cake, even a recipe to bake your own sugar cones or bowls. What I found the most helpful was the section on the techniques involved. It’s not rocket science, but the pictures of the proper base consistency and the tips on how to get that perfect puck-shaped chunk of ice cream necessary for a sandwich were useful.
Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream
[Makes about 1 quart ice cream]
For the Strawberry Purée:
- 1 1/2 pints (3 cups) strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
For the Base:
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cups 1% or 2% milk
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Cook the berries: Combine the berries with the 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons vinegar in a large skillet. Put the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the strawberries are soft and the liquid they release has reduced somewhat, 6 to 8 minutes.
Let cool slightly, then transfer the berries and their juice to a blender or food processor. Purée until smooth and refrigerate.
Make the base: In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up, then whisk in half of sugar (1/4 cup). Set aside.
In a heavy stainless steel pan, stir together the cream, milk, salt, and the remaining sugar (1/4 cup) and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the mixture approaches a bare simmer, reduce the heat to medium.
Carefully scoop out about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture and, whisking the eggs constantly, add the cream to the bowl with the yolks. Returning to the pan of cream on the stove, use a heatproof spatula to stir the cream as you slowly pour the egg and cream mixture from the bowl back into the pan.
Continue to cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened, coats the back of a spatula, and leaves a clear mark when you run your finger across it, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer and into a clean container. Set the container into an ice bath, wash your spatula, and use it to stir the base occasionally until it is cool. Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the base for at least 2 hours overnight.
Freeze the ice cream: Whisk the strawberry purée and the remaining 2 teaspoons vinegar into the chilled base.
Dark Chocolate Cookies
[Makes about 50 cookies. I halved the recipe.]
- 2 2/3 cups (12 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (8 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, measured then sifted
- 4 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (15 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and both sugars. Mix on medium-high speed until lightened in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and, with the motor running, add the eggs one at a time, completely mixing in each egg before adding the next. [I used 2 eggs when halving the recipe. -K] Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the flour mixture, and mix on low speed just until the dough comes together, about 30 seconds.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill until the dough is firm, at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
- When you’re ready to bake, position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the over and preheat the over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick mats.
Scoop up 2 tablespoons of dough (we use a 1-ounce ice cream scoop) and form the dough into a ball. Repeat until all the dough has been shaped. Place the balls 2 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Flatten the balls slightly with the palm of your hand so that they’re 1/2 inch thick.
- Bake for 5 minutes, and then rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue to bake until the cookies are slightly cracked on the surface and feel dry and slightly firm in the center, 5 to 6 minutes longer. (If they feel airy, like a souffle, they’re not ready.)
- Let cool for a minute on the baking sheets, then transfer to a rack. Bake the remaining dough balls. Let cool completely and then store in an airtight container.
- Get the cookies ready. Arrange half of the cookies upside down on a baking sheet.
- Prepare the ice cream and assemble. Put the ice cream in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so to let soften slightly (set the timer!).If you’re the perfectionist type, you can get a more uniform shape by using a dry measuring cup as a mold for the ice cream. Pack the ice cream into a 1/2-cup dry measuring cup, then use a small spoon to nudge the “puck” of ice cream out onto the cookie. Use a small offset spatula to even out the top and smooth the sides. Top with the remaining cookies and press gently to adhere. Or, you can get a more handmade look by simple scooping a large scoop of ice cream onto a cookie and sandwiching it with the second cookie. Press on the cookies slightly to encourage the ice cream to come all the way to the edges.
- Freeze the sandwiches. Put the baking sheet in the freezer and let the sandwiches harden for at least 2 hours.