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.
In a few short weeks, we're headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I've ever seen (and he's quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it's remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we'll be gone much of September, I've felt a bit of a 'hurry, make all the summery things!' feeling set in. So we've been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
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.
A triple berry summer crisp made with oats, quinoa flakes and hazelnuts. Summer in a skillet.
I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn't surprising to anyone. I'd done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited. Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it's bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being ... but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It's been awhile since I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn't need much convincing.