I received The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon cookbook in the mail not long before we moved to our new house, and I remember lying in bed and bookmarking pages I was excited to try but also feeling overwhelmed with where to start: the truth is that this summer has been a relatively low-inspiration / low energy time in the kitchen for me. I’d been chalking it up to pregnancy but when I think back and if I’m honest with myself, my cooking style tends to be very easy and produce-driven during these warmer months. I rarely break out complicated recipes, instead relying on fresh tomatoes and corn or zucchini and homemade pesto to guide me. But last night I cracked open Sara’s book and pulled out a few peaches I’ve had sitting on the counter, fearing their season may be nearing its end. This morning as I was making coffee, I sliced up the peaches, toasted the pecans and churned away — having a bite (or maybe two) before getting it into the freezer to firm up.
If you haven’t yet peeked at The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon, it is all “bowl food” which is really, instinctually, my kind of eating and cooking. In other words, it’s filled with salads and grain bowls, noodles, oatmeal and fruit crisps. It’s food that is meant to be eaten simply, out of a bowl — you won’t find constructed courses here or fancy staggered meals. I’d go out on a limb to guess that this is the way many of us eat anyway if left to our own whims, and Sara’s recipes are always fresh, healthy and inspired. I have a few pages bookmarked to make and freeze for us to have after Sprout is born: Smoky Black Bean Chili and Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce. But first, this ice cream.
This summer has been a special one for peaches in Seattle. Collins Farm is a local farm that sells pears and apples in the fall and stone fruits in the summer (among other things). This year in particular, their peaches have been outstanding and I’ll often make a special trip out to one of the markets now just to pick up a bag. I find myself hoarding them and hiding them from Sam; they’re that good. I’m slowly starting to sense the season coming to a close and because we have a few busy weekends coming up I have a feeling this may be our last batch of homemade summery ice cream. That being said, with this one in the freezer, I think we’ve really gone out with a bang.
Sara mentions in her notes that she wavers between having the peaches in the ice cream or serving them on top, so ultimately she opts to do both. The peach flavor is much more subtle when the fruit is frozen, so serving a handful on top is a really nice touch. Peaches aside though, the ice cream base itself is worth making all on its own: it has a quiet tanginess from the buttermilk, the perfect amount of sweetness, and a subtle warmth from the cinnamon. In fact, it occurred to me that this is the perfect “bridge dessert” as we slowly look towards fall: the fragrant cinnamon in the custard is a slow tease as to what’s to come yet the juicy, bold peaches remind us of where we stand right now.
Megan’s Note: I made a few tweaks to this recipe based on what we had in our cupboard which I’ll mention here so you can make some choices based on what you have at home. Sara calls for brown rice syrup which is nice because it has a really mild, subtle sweetness; we were out so I used honey instead. I opted not to use the 2 tablespoons bourbon Sara calls for and it was delicious as is; I imagine it’s even more so with a splash so do as you like. Last, I used cream cheese instead of the mascarpone because we had some leftover from another recipe. If you’d prefer the slightly more decadent flavor of mascarpone, just substitute it in for the same amount of cream cheese. My small changes are reflected in the recipe below.
The only thing I’ll do differently next time is dice the peaches smaller than I did. Big hunks of fruit can feel kind of hard and icy in ice cream whereas little bites are bright and add flavor and texture, so do take the time to do a nice fine dice. If your cream cheese is very firm, you may want to whisk in a quick splash of milk to loosen it up a bit — I ended up doing this just to help it incorporate more easily.
Lightly adapted from: The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon
Mix the 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.
Combine the remaining milk, the cream, honey, sugar and salt in a large saucepan or pot (at least 4 quarts). Bring the mixture to a very gentle simmer over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cornstarch mixture.
Bring the mixture back to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, another minute.
Gradually whisk in the cream cheese until smooth. Stir in the buttermilk, vanilla, cinnamon and bourbon (if using). Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for two hours or until cold. If it chills too long, a fat layer will separate to the top. Remove this piece before churning* (see note below).
Churn the ice cream according to the manufacturer’s directions. In the last minutes, add the toasted pecans and half the peaches. Spoon the mixture into the storage container and freeze until firm.
*Just a note on chilling: I chilled my mixture overnight and it was absolutely fine. Mascarpone has a higher fat content than cream cheese, so if you go the mascarpone route, Sara’s suggestion on not chilling too long will likely apply. But the recipe as written here can be chilled overnight.
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.