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.
It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!
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.
This time last week I was up in the Skagit River Valley sitting in the early fall sun eating wood-fired bagels and chatting with farmers, millers and bakers at the Kneading Conference West. I made homemade soba noodles, learned the ins and outs of sourdough starters, and sat in on a session where we tasted crackers baked with single varietal wheats. It was like wine tasting, but with wheat and the whole time I kept pinching myself, thinking: THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! I don't get the opportunity to be a student much these days -- usually on the other side of things teaching cooking classes or educating people at the farmers markets about whole grains and natural sugars. So to just sit and listen with a fresh (red!) notebook and a new pen was surprisingly refreshing. I miss it already. Thankfully, this cookie recipe has come back as a memorable souvenir, and one that is sure to be in high rotation in our house in the coming months.
Strolling New York City streets during the height of fall when all the leaves are changing and golden light glints off the brownstone windows. This is what I envisioned when I bought tickets to attend my cousin's September wedding earlier this month: Sam and I would extend the trip for a good day or two so we could experience a little bit of fall in the city. We'd finally eat at Prune and have scones and coffee at Buvette, as we always do. Sam wanted to take me to Russ and Daughters, and we'd try to sneak in a new bakery or ice cream shop for good measure. Well, as some of you likely know, my thinking on the weather was premature. New York City fall had yet to descend and, instead, we ambled around the city in a mix of humidity and rain. When we returned home I found myself excited about the crisp evening air, and the fact that the tree across the street had turned a rusty shade of amber. It was time to do a little baking.
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon on a day when we had big plans to conquer pre-baby chore lists, but Sam's not feeling great and my energy's a little low so it hasn't been quite what we'd envisioned. My goals for the morning were to repot a house plant and make some soup and I've done neither. I will say that the sweet potato and fennel are still sitting on the counter eagerly awaiting their Big Moment -- it just hasn't come about quite yet. Sam and I were both going to attempt to install the carseat, but it started to look really daunting so we abandoned ship; it's now sitting proudly in the basement, also eagerly awaiting its Big Moment. So it's been one of those weekends -- the kind you look back on and wonder what it is you actually accomplished. At the very least, I get the chance to tell you about this hearty cranberry cornbread. I know maybe it feels premature in the season for cranberry recipes, but hang with me here: slathered with a little soft butter and runny honey, there's nothing I'd rather eat right now on the cool, crisp Seattle mornings we've been having lately.