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.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.
Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.
[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.