Magic Sorbet

Well, folks…the time has come.

The leaves are changing, people are finally making the dreaded switch from iced coffee back to the hot stuff, and style mavens everywhere are heralding the arrival of fashion’s favorite season (who doesn’t love a sweater?). Yup, fall is finally here – and with it comes flu season.

Over the course of my nine years of friendship with Ora, co-Ceci, I’ve had my share of colds, coughs, and flus. And if I ever come over to Ora’s house when I’m sick, I know she’ll make me the best concoction a sick person could ask for – Magic Drink.

Magic Drink is simple and natural: it’s hot water (though I sometimes make it with ginger tea) steeped with tons of fresh ginger, honey, lemon, and cayenne. All of the ingredients either aid the immune system, soothe the throat, or some combination: ginger, along with its many other magical properties, is an anti-microbial; honey eases a sore throat; lemon is packed with vitamin C; and cayenne is nature’s potent Kleenex. And on top of all that, it’s delicious – both warming and nasal-passage-clearing.

So – given my love for Magic Drink, you can imagine my excitement when, paging through my new copy of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home one day in September, I came across a recipe for “Influenza Rx Sorbet.” It sounded suspiciously close to Magic Drink, so I looked through the ingredients. Sure enough, this was it – Magic Drink in sorbet form!

I didn’t have to wait long for an opportunity to try it out. A couple of weeks later, just before Rosh Hashanah, Ora and her sister / my honey Shalva both came down with nasty colds. I tossed together the very easy recipe in about half an hour and froze it overnight. And as “luck” would have it, by the time I brought it over to Ora’s house the next day for Rosh Hashanah dinner, I wasn’t feeling too hot myself.

After services, we came home and flopped onto the couch: three achey, cough-y, runny-nosed people (plus one healthy friend), sorely in need of some Magic Something. When we popped open the sorbet, the verdict was unanimous – “Whoa, this is totally Magic Sorbet!”

And it was exactly what we’d hoped for – the sweet cold felt good on our throats, the citrus was refreshing, and the cayenne definitely cleared our passages, to say the least. As it turns out, Magic Sorbet is a rare treat – a dessert that not only tastes good when you’re sick, but feels good, too.

P.S. Apparently sick bloggers are not good at remembering to take photos, so this post is sadly photo-free. But – if you make this recipe, send us a picture! We’ll post it on The Big Ceci and fawn over your loveliness.

*

Magic Sorbet (adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home)

A note on cayenne – I stupidly assumed that, given the wide audience Jeni was writing this recipe for, she probably hadn’t included enough cayenne to satisfy my heat-loving palate. So I upped the cayenne, from a level 1/8 teaspoon to a heaping 1/8 teaspoon. And though the sorbet was delicious, I think Ora’s declaration of “Mmm…my lips are kind of burning” is probably an indication that Jeni’s original 1/8 teaspoon probably would have been just right.

Ingredients

2 cups fresh orange juice (from 5 to 6 oranges – make sure they’re not over-ripe, unless you like your sorbet very sweet)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger (I might try to replace this with fresh ginger next time)
One 3-ounce packet liquid fruit pectin (use the natural stuff – or make your own!)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 to 4 tablespoons bourbon (optional – I left it out this time, but I will definitely be trying it in the future!)

Instructions

1. Combine orange and lemon juices, sugar, honey, and ginger in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.

2. Add the pectin, cayenne, and bourbon, if using. Pour into a bowl, let cool, and then cover and refrigerate until cold.

3. Freeze in an ice cream machine until it is the consistency of very softly whipped cream. Then pack into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface (this is Jeni’s very good suggestion to keep your sorbet from forming ice crystals!), and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Guys, PEACH PIE!!!!

Please forgive me Pie Eaters for missing my assigned Monday post. I hope my offering of Honey Bourbon Caramel Peach Pie makes up for it! I was in Ohio visiting the fam and Monday just rolled by like a tumble weed. But guys, this pie is AMAZING!! I accidentally made it with whole wheat flour and it turned out pretty darn tasty! In this post I wanted to tell you all about wheat and flour and the Midwest and blah blah blah but, alas, I just got home from the airport and I’m due in the hospital (to work) in just a few hours, so short and sweet is what’s on the menu. What I will say is that, while spending time in Ohio, I had the honor of talking to two women over 90 years of age about pie (one being my granny and one being my sweetie’s great aunt) and it was a hoot! Old ladies and pie might be tied in first place on my “favorite things” list! Okay, kisses to you all and I’ll see you next week!

Pop Ed Ice Cream: Part 2

A SPECIAL NOTE FROM THE BIG CECI: There is a person without whom The Big Ceci would not exist…and that person is Ryvka. Ryvka’s vision has been guiding The Big Ceci since day one. She helped come up with the idea for the blog in the first place, and since then, she has been a constant presence behind the scenes, offering inspiration, feedback, support, and guidance. She has encouraged, nurtured, motivated, and even nudged when necessary. And we’re hoping that her next contribution will be a post!

In the meantime, though, this week is a very special one on The Big Ceci, because it is the week of Ryvka’s birthday. In order to celebrate the Big Daddy of The Big Ceci, we are offering up a week of posts dedicated to her and her love of food!

So, because we love Ryvka, and because Ryvka and I are kindred spirits in our love for sweet things, we bring you…

POP ED ICE CREAM: PART 2 (the tutorial!)

In my last Pop Ed Ice Cream post, I told you why I love making ice cream. In this post, I want to tell you how to do it. But rather than just give a specific recipe, I want to offer some tools for ice cream making. I’m going to share what I’ve learned about proportions, ingredients, and basic methods…so that hopefully you can feel empowered to go off and experiment with your own flavors, liberated from recipes that limit you to the flavor they specify!

So, without further ado…

THE BASIC RATIO

All ice cream relies on a pretty basic ratio (or set of proportions) of ingredients that you can tweak based on what you’re doing. Here it is (this will make 1 quart of ice cream):

3 cups milk, cream, or non-dairy equivalent
3-8 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
flavoring of your choice (vanilla extract, chocolate chips, peanut butter, liquor, goat cheese, etc…the possibilities are literally endless)

Now you’ve got the ratio. All that’s missing for you to grab the reins of your own ice cream destiny is some knowledge of what each ingredient does – so that you can tweak it to your heart’s content. So let’s talk specifics.

THE “SCOOP” ON INGREDIENTS

Milk/cream/liquid: Traditional ice cream uses cream here – either 2 cups of heavy cream and 1 cup of milk, or even, for rich stuff like you get at that shonde Coldstone Creamery, 3 cups of heavy cream. It’s a simple equation – fat doesn’t freeze, so the higher the fat content of your liquid, the richer, creamier, and smoother your ice cream will be. Beyond that, though, it’s up to you. Experiment with what you like. You can use heavy cream, half and half, milk, or any combination. For non-dairy ice cream, I highly recommend coconut milk for the incredibly rich texture it provides – but you can play with other non-dairy milks too. Just remember the golden rule of making ice cream – the less fat, the less creamy.

By the way – people often wonder about the difference between gelato and ice cream. What defines gelato is that it has a lower butterfat percentage than regular ice cream. So gelato is traditionally made with fewer egg yolks and more milk than cream – if there’s any cream involved at all. Interestingly, the lower fat content allows the actual flavor of the ice cream to come through more strongly, which is why people often think of gelato as richer and more decadent.

Egg yolks: The fat in the egg yolks functions similarly to the fat in the milk/cream – it makes your ice cream richer, creamier, and smoother. Gelato tends to have fewer egg yolks (or even, in Sicilian gelato, cornstarch instead of egg yolks). If you make your ice cream with no egg yolks, then you’re making Philadelphia-style ice cream, which is all the rage these days for its simplicity and relative lightness.

Sugar: You can reduce this a LITTLE if your flavoring is super sweet, but be careful – sugar also doesn’t freeze! It is one of the ingredients, along with fat, that contributes to the softness of the ice cream. So if you reduce the sugar drastically, you may find that you end up with hard, icy, unappetizing ice cream.

Salt: Makes almost everything better. Don’t worry, you won’t be able to taste it.

Alcohol: Alcohol can add a lovely depth to your ice cream, and it has the added bonus of making it softer/creamier (because alcohol doesn’t freeze, as anyone who went to a Big Ten school knows). You can reliably add about 3 tablespoons of liquor to a quart of ice cream (which is what this tutorial makes)…any more, and you risk the ice cream failing to freeze.

INSTRUCTIONS

At this point I’m going to lay out the basic steps to making any type of ice cream. Obviously these steps will vary a little bit depending on what you’re adding in, but the important thing to remember is that the methodology of making and chilling the custard is pretty much always the same.

To help you experiment, I’ve tried to indicate where/how you would modify these steps when adding flavors/ingredients. And as an example, I’ve added notes and photos from the ice cream I made last weekend – a honey vanilla goat milk ice cream* for a friend who’s not eating cow’s milk or refined sugar right now.

1. Stir together your milk/dairy-like liquid, sugar/sweetener, and salt, and warm them in a saucepan over a low flame. If you are using spices, vanilla beans, herbs, or anything else that can dissolve/infuse into liquid, add those now too (but not alcohol – we’ll talk about that later).

Honey vanilla goat milk ice cream notes: I used 1 vanilla bean, sliced open and with the seeds scraped out (those are the specks in the above photo), and about 2/3 cup of honey, because honey tends to be a bit more intense than regular sugar.

2. While your milk is warming: in a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.

Honey vanilla goat milk ice cream notes: I used 4 egg yolks for this ice cream. I think it was the perfect amount of richness – creamy but not heavy.

3. Once the milk mixture is warm, pour about half of it slowly into the egg yolks, stirring the yolks constantly as you pour. The idea is to warm the egg yolks gently so that you don’t get scrambled eggs when you heat them up in the next step.

4. Pour the egg yolks + milk mixture back into the saucepan. Now you have the beginnings of a custard – the foundation of your ice cream. You’re going to want to cook this custard gently, over a low flame, stirring and scraping the bottom constantly with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon. By cooking the custard, you are doing two things: a) killing any harmful bacteria in the eggs, and b) bringing out their thickening potential. If you heat the custard too aggressively, the eggs will solidify and you will have, as I mentioned, scrambled eggs. Not good (unless you are making scrambled egg ice cream, I guess?), so be vigilant with your stirring (don’t forget to scrape the bottom), and fight the urge to turn the heat up too high – it’s easy to get impatient in this step, but try to give the eggs time to do their thing.

5. When the custard is thick enough that it coats the back of your spoon/spatula, remove it from the heat. This can be a tough thing to judge, so a little advice: dip your spoon/spatula in the custard and run your (clean!) finger down the back of the spoon/spatula. If your finger leaves a clear and distinct trail behind, it’s thick enough.

6. Pour the custard through a sieve/strainer (in order to catch any hardened bits of egg) into a bowl, and set the bowl over an ice bath (the easiest way is just to set it on top of a slightly larger bowl filled with ice). The idea is to cool down the custard as quickly as possible, so you may want to give it a few stirs to get some extra air in there.

This is also the moment when you should stir in any alcohol or other ingredients with which you want to flavor the ice cream (think bourbon, melted chocolate, etc). But…be advised that anything you add at this stage will be completely and homogeneously incorporated. Don’t add anything yet that you would like to “swirl” / “chunk” / remain distinct within the ice cream – we’ll get to those later.

7. When the custard has cooled, stick the bowl in the fridge for a few hours, or preferably, overnight. We do this because when it has time to chill, the fats emulsify and your ice cream gets creamier, smoother, and more delicious. So, overnight chilling is best, but at the very least, go for a few hours.

8. When the custard has chilled, churn it in your ice cream maker according to instructions, freeze it for 3-4 hours, or overnight…and eat it as quickly as possible! Fresh ice cream is the best.

Honey vanilla goat milk ice cream notes: When I took the ice cream out of the ice cream maker and transferred it into a container to freeze it, I drizzled in additional spoonfuls of honey. I did this after I churned it because of this: pretty much anything you pour in during the churning process will become 100% incorporated/dissolved into the ice cream. So if you’re adding an ingredient for variation in flavor/texture (peanut butter swirl, for example), you’ll want to add that ingredient after you churn but before you freeze, when the ice cream is still pretty soft.

With regards to churning time: the more you churn it, the more air that you’ll whip into it – but also, the icier it will get! For a lighter, airier, more icy ice cream, err on the side of longer churning. For a denser, creamier, more gelato-esque ice cream, err on the side of minimal churning. (By the way, true gelato is churned with a special machine that incorporates very little air into the ice cream, again leaving us with the dense richness that many of us associate with gelato.)

**

And that concludes the Pop Ed Ice Cream Tutorial! So now I turn the floor over to you…do you make ice cream? What are your favorite techniques and flavors? Got a tip or some pictures to share? Or, if you’ve never made ice cream – what’s a flavor you’d love to try? What’s the best ice cream you’ve ever had?

*Technically, since my goat milk was cultured, I made frozen yogurt – but for the purposes of this post, we’re going with “ice cream”!

Salty Honey Pie

People!!! Salty Honey Pie, it’s bangin’!! I took it to a pot-luck and it sure was a crowd-pleaser. But people, I need to be honest and tell you that making a custard pie can be anxiety inducing. This was my first attempt, and I learned a lot.

The baking part is what feels most stressful to me. It’s a little easier to know when a fruit pie is done because the fruit starts to bubble. However, with this pie, the recipe says, “The filling will puff up like a marshmallow and the center will be just slightly wobbly.” Sometimes, when instructions are too vague for me, I flash back to how I felt when taking physics exams in college (i.e. like barfing). Puff up like WHAT KIND of marshmallow? One that looks burnt or one that is white and soft? Like a cooked marshmallow or one fresh from the bag? Also, the center of what is wobbly?

Don’t worry. I found my mental safe space and calmed down. I waited until the filling puffed up and resembled a perfectly roasted marshmallow which was about 65 minutes in the oven. When I pulled it out the entire filling was slightly wobbly, not just the center of the filling. I let it cool for an hour and sprinkled with finishing salt. I found the kind the recipe suggested at a little market near my house, but any flaky finishing salt will do. Mine didn’t look as pretty as the one in the recipe but it was truly off-the-charts delicious, even if it wasn’t much of a looker.

Finally, geeky science fact time. This week, in honor of the ladies and gentlemen that worked so hard to make this pie possible, I would like to talk about bees! Did you know that a bee colony will visit around 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey? The term “busy bee” isn’t just alliteration, people – it’s honest to god fact. They also have this bonkers way of reproducing called a haplodiploid sex-determination system. It’s complicated, but basically means that the girl bees come from fertilized eggs and the boy bees come from unfertilized eggs. I’m going to leave you with this quote:

“This haplodiploid sex-determination system produces a number of peculiarities; chief among these is that a male has no father and cannot have sons, but he has a grandfather and can have grandsons.” (Haplodiploid sex-determination system,” Wikipedia)

Dear reader, welcome to galaxy brain.