A cooking challenge organized by Meg of Grow and Resist and Briggs of Oh Briggsy in which we explore a featured cookbook each month. The selection for August is Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by Kris Hoogerhyde, Anne Walker, and Dabney Gough of the Bi-Rite Creamery.
Things are not always as they seem. This is not as one-topic a book as the cover and tagline make it appear. In fact, surprisingly, it’s probably the most versatile dessert book I own and it’s full of classics. While we delved into it throughout August, it will be on a main shelf all year round, especially consulted during the Christmas holidays when I’m preparing food gifts and feeding crowds. And not fearing sugar and fat, ‘cause there’s plenty of that in those pages.
Like the food processor and electric mixer, the ice cream machine is one of the workhorses of our kitchen. My husband is an ice cream guy but I put him on a sorbet regime a few years ago, which in part accounts for the 26 entries in the sorbet section of my blog. I sneaked some ice cream in there too. During the devastation of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast last year, we lost power for a long time and our fussy refrigerator went on strike. The ice cream maker (which has a canister that resides in the freezer) was mothballed. Thankfully, this book made me get it out again and resume my weekly habit of making a frozen treat. I even located our old ice pop mold. And our cookie press. I’m all set now.
As usual with most new cookbooks, I started with the basics and/or at the beginning. Vanilla ice cream, as the authors suggest, is the litmus test of a great ice cream maker. And the Vanilla Ice Cream (Page 35) in this book is superb. I normally make vanilla extract at this time of year so that it is ready for the holidays (it takes 6-8 weeks to cure). I was well stocked with newly purchased beans and the remainder of last year’s extract. This ice cream was the hands down favorite of our family, served with blackberries and nectarines or with Caramel Sauce (Page 71). So much so that I made another batch.
Because it’s blackberry season, I made Blackberry Ice Cream (Page 143) and also the Lemon Verbena adaptation of Basil Ice Cream (Pages 176-77). Served together, they were sublime in taste and color. Usually when I’ve made berry ice creams, I have used more berries in proportion to cream and fewer eggs than Bi-Rite, which allows the fruit to be more prominent. This version was good, but I’d change the proportions ever so slightly or add in crushed berries. I’ve also made lemon verbena ice cream before, and I find that you need more verbena than you would basil, so I doubled the amount of herbs that the recipe called for and steeped them for 30 minutes. The Lemon Verbena version was great as an ice cream sandwich with Dark Chocolate Cookies (Page 90). Since the gluten-frees were home, I substituted gluten-free flour with great success. I also halved the recipe since, as the authors noted, 50 of those cookies would be daunting.
The first recipe I made was Brown Sugar Graham Crackers (Pages 66-67). They were the very best! I will definitely bake them again to make piecrust. In the meanwhile, I’m scheming desserts for Labor Day weekend. Let’s see… so many choices.
P.S. A couple additional experiments over the weekend: very tasty Lemon Gingersnaps (Pages 169-70) and excellent Chocolate Ice Cream (Page 178). I served the chocolate ice cream with caramel sauce and peanuts for a Snickers-like concoction that made my husband very happy.