Ever since Sam and I got engaged in December, I told myself that I could get away with not worrying about too many of the smaller details until … June. It was always an arbitrary month but seemed fitting as it was three months away from our actual wedding. A good time to, say, ask yourself: If you’re writing your own ceremony, how the heck does one do that? The answer? Hold that thought until June. If you’ve decided on very large 12-inch layer cakes instead of a more traditional wedding cake, where does one find very large cake stands? The answer? Settle that in June. Wedding shoes? As it turns out, wedding shoes are happily relegated to June (and will likely be just as happy when relegated to July). So the other day when I was writing out my rent check, I realized that here we are: why hello, June. Instead of getting right down to business, it seems as good a time as any to make ice cream.
Now of course, Sam and I still have a few months to tend to all these details but with the way that summer typically whirls on past, I’ve started to make some lists. In fact, I bought a special notebook for these lists. And we’ve been slowly checking things off and designating who will work on what. Sam does most of the design-oriented planning, obviously. Invitations and website and menus. I took care of the travel and lodging logistics for our guests, flower girl dresses, tent rentals. And while we’ve both been plugging away at our separate tasks, it’s started to feel more like teamwork over these past few weeks. We recently went to a very, very bizarre cake tasting, the likes of which should really have its own entire blog post. Or short story. But let’s suffice it to say we drove an hour outside of the city to taste pre-frozen, very dry cake in a woman’s shed/basement that was shared with her dogs (or goats … or some animal hiding behind a very large sheet). Rather than slicing the cake to try, she ripped it into pieces with her hands and the idea was that we’d then take a hunk of cake and dunk it in a bowl of frosting. I learned that day I’m not the biggest fan of the torn-cake-frosting-dunk.
But thankfully I have Sam. Sam, who dutifully tasted cake and politely asked how we may be able to make it a bit more moist as it seemed rather dry to him. Sam, who asked the woman all about what her husband does for a living and complimented her Kitchen Aid set-up (all the while I was seated cross-legged on my stool trying not to have a panic attack and cursing myself for having made us drive so far from home, wasting an entire afternoon). But Sam kept grabbing my leg under the table and meeting my worried gaze with his smiling eyes. We had a good, long laugh about it in the car pulling out of the driveway, and I felt more than ever that we were building something together here — to-do lists, check boxes and really awful wedding cake included.
Now team or no team, I’ve been making quite a bit of ice cream this season. I made a Vegan Coconut Almond Chocolate Chip for The Kitchn followed by a Vegan Strawberry Swirl. Today I’m excited to share this super-creamy, slightly tangy Honeyed Buttermilk and Chamomile Ice Cream. I’ve been thinking about this flavor for awhile now, maybe since I received David Lebovitz’s beautiful new book, My Paris Kitchen, in the mail. He has a recipe for Buttermilk Ice Cream in the book. Then Joy the Baker wrote about a Buttermilk Ice Cream with Strawberries. The universe was clearly trying to tell me something.
For my version, I decided to make a French-style ice cream using egg yolks and amped up the tanginess of the buttermilk even further with a little sour cream. The round, sweetness of the honey and the softness of chamomile balances it beautifully. I think this recipe is the perfect entry into warm weather ice cream season, so if you haven’t made a homemade batch in awhile, I highly suggest it. While we ate it in small bowls for the last week, it was my intention to buy little shortbread cookies or thin buttery cookies — I think they’d be really nice with this flavor, too. As if any of us needs a suggestion for how to eat their ice cream. Regardless, I hope you enjoy it. With a teammate … or solo. I can vouch for the fact that it tastes just as good either way.
Quick note on chamomile: For this recipe, you can use loose chamomile flowers / tea purchased at your local co-op, health food store or tea / herb shop. They shouldn’t be too tough to track down, and are also readily available online. Some recipes using chamomile flowers suggest to submerge them in a little water and drain them on paper towels just to remove any possible residue, but I found they simple floated at the top for the most part and made a bit of a mess. So I ditched this advice and figured that we’re steeping them in very hot milk and that they’d likely be just fine.
Because this ice cream has a lower fat content than some (buttermilk, a main ingredient, is low fat), you’ll want to let it soften slightly at room temperature before serving. If you can’t find loose chamomile flowers, I have a hunch that about 4 chamomile tea bags would work, too. And certainly feel free to experiment with other herbs or teas for steeping. If you like lavender that could be really nice used sparingly, as would something savory like thyme. Please note that the ice cream base takes 2 hours to chill and 4 hours to firm up, and this time isn’t accounted for in the breakdowns above — nor is the total time as everyone’s ice cream machine really works at different speeds.
Bring cream to a slow, gentle simmer in heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the chamomile flowers. Let sit for 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until smooth. Put cream mixture back on the stovetop and heat on medium heat until it just barely comes to a simmer. Very slowly whisk the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to saucepan, add the honey and stir continuously over medium-low heat until custard is thick enough to coat back of spoon, about 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to boil.
Pour the custard through a fine-weive strainer and into a medium bowl. Whisk in buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla and salt. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until cold, 2 hours (or up to overnight if easier).
Process custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to a large, flat container (I prefer a bread loaf pan). Cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.