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.
Healthy Comfort Food
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)