Most of the boxes I open at work contain boring things and occasionally, the contents actually cause me physical pain as in the cases of the paper ream that gave me a mother of a paper cut.
But today I unpacked something lovely and delicious.
And, impressively, only slightly squishy from a hot car ride.
The August Cupcake of the Month from Ooh La La Sweets.
This over-sized confection has a Neopolitan (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry) swirl cake base that is topped with a very generous portion of banana buttercream frosting, a crunchy, hard coating of dark chocolate, and, of course, a cherry.
Decadent and a perfect representation of banana split flavors. It also boasts the advantage of not melting nearly as quickly.
Yesterday, I learned an important lesson.
Chocolate ice cream that has been sitting in the freezer for only 1 hour is no match for a freshly toasted marshmallow.
Well, the idea had merit, at least.
Next time, I'll use chilled marshmallow fluff instead.
Although base for an ice cream sandwich is traditionally a cookie or wafer, a brownie can be ideal for creating a compact, cocoa-heavy treat. The texture of the brownie is extremely important; too soft and fudgy and it will "bleed" over the cream; too hard and it will fail to contain the sandwich contents. A soft, slightly cake-y brownie is just about perfect.
I suggest using an over-sized rectangular pan when baking, so the batter spreads out to form brownies that are just a bit thinner than average. Then, cut out circles of cooled brownie or use your favorite cookie cutters for more creative shapes. For the sake of uniform circumferences, you may want to use an upside-down water glass.
Next, top your bottom base with a scoop of ice cream. Top with matching brownie base and smoosh slightly to meld the layers. Enjoy promptly or wrap in plastic wrap for consumption at a later point.
Now, obviously, you can apply any type of ice cream you like to this recipe, but why not continue with the chocolate theme and select an inventive cocoa-based flavor? This time I used plain Dutch Chocolate, but next time let's introduce some legumes via this bad boy.
..but for me the beginning of National Ice Cream Sandwich Week!
The diversity in types and forms of the ice cream sandwich demands an entire week of experimentation.
Stay tuned for food porn.
If, however, you cannot wait one more moment for a quality ice cream sammie, head to the Heights to catch up with Smoosh food truck.
...Ooh La La launches its August Cupcake of the Month!
What's so special about this cuppie cake and why am I writing about it here? It's designed to taste like a banana split.
The worlds of ice cream and baked goods meet with this treat and the collision looks to be most delicious. Stay tuned for more details following my taste-test.
A short post for an ephemeral holiday.
What makes a good hot fudge? I think, uniform thickness, strong, enduring deep cocoa flavor, and melt-ability.
The last word I made up and copyrighted.
What's the best hot fudge sundae you've ever had? Where?
Breaking News: TOMORROW and TOMORROW ONLY, you can commandeer UBER to bring $25 worth of ice cream from Cloud 10 Creamery to your doorstep.
Just open UBER between 11am and 5pm tomorrow, set your location, and request, "ICE CREAM."
And, if you have a Capital One Card, it's free:
"Our friends at Capital One® are offering a free order of ice cream (a $25 value in Houston) to eligible Capital One cardholders on Friday, July 24, 2015. Select your eligible Capital One card as payment method and enter promo code SWEETDEAL in the Uber app before requesting."
Apparently Thursday is National Vanilla Ice Cream Day.
I'll celebrate that holiday in due course, but in the meantime was inspired to list my five all-time favorite commercial flavors of ice cream. These flavors aren't particularly complex, but they're my comfort food and many make me nostalgic. In another post, I'll tackle my preferred artisan/small-batch flavors.
5. Friendly's Butter Crunch. My ice cream experiences growing up were largely dominated by three brands, Friendly's, White Mountain Creamery, and Brigham's. Although I more often ordered sundaes at Friendly's, if we didn't sit down I opted for a very large cone to-go with Butter Crunch. This flavor is similar to butter pecan, but in the absence of legumes amps up the butterscotch notes such that every spoonful is the perfect marriage of animal fat and dairy.
4. Brigham's Chocolate. Brigham's was the official brand of the O'Leary clan and when we visited my grandparents, nearly every meal save breakfast (though, wait, that one time...) ended with a scoop of ice cream. Generally, I'm not a fan of chocolate-based ice cream because to me they usually don't replicate the exact cocoa flavor present in say, a Hershey's bar. The exception is Brigham's Chocolate, which has a rich, dark, almost smoky taste.
3. Oreo/Cookies 'n' Cream.. Or "Cookies and Cream" or "Cookies and Creme"...you get the point. My failure to designate a specific type doesn't mean just old any brand will do but rather that I've had above-average versions from Breyer's, White Mountain Creamery, Friendly's, BlueBell, and others.
2. Turkey Hill Moose Tracks. Technically, it's "light" because the base is lower-fat vanilla ice cream. HOWEVER, the presence of thick fudge stripes (too large to be simply called "streaks") and miniature peanut butter cups definitely makes for a rich, nearly cloying experience.
1. Ben & Jerry's Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch. I could probably eat two pints in one sitting if I tried. B & J doesn't skip on the large toffee chunks. The coffee version is wonderful if you want to chow down on creams and get a caffeine fix.
July is National Ice Cream Month and is peppered with specific individual holidays, such the previously covered, "National Strawberry Sundae Day." The week of July 20th is especially busy, with no fewer than five holidays, beginning today.
To say I am indifferent to ice cream sundaes would be an overstatement. I like the most iconic rendition, the root beer float, but my more often than not I want to enjoy my ice cream in a non-liquid vehicle, such as a waffle cone or cup (with or without toppings).
If you like a dish that allows you to slurp, sip, and spoon your ice cream simultaneously and you haven't tried anything but a root beer float, I heartily suggest sampling a "Brown Cow"; alcoholic versions abound, but I prefer the old-school recipe with just vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, and coke.
There is also the under-appreciated "Boston Cooler," made with ginger ale and vanilla ice cream. Somewhat puzzling is the fact that many recipes call for this drink to be made with Vernor's Ginger Ale, the pride of Michigan, rather than some Massachusetts- or New England-based soda.
...or "Candy Ice Cream Bars" as some might call them. The genius who first came up with this idea is probably swimming in his own pool of money a la Scrooge McDuck. Or maybe she ate too many of her own creation and died from Type II diabetes.
In either case, the world is a better place because of the elimination of any dichotomy between "ice cream" and "candy bar."
Note: Not that we either had to really choose between the two treats as evidenced by the popularity of candy bar toppings.
Although most of the major candy companies have come up with ice cream versions of their most popular bars or candies, still absent is a sufficient ice cream edition of the M&M. Yes, I know Mars has put out an M&M cookie ice cream sandwich; however, this novelty fails to replicate the true M&M consumption experience. Specifically, what I'm suggesting is that Mars issue slightly larger M&Ms filled with milk chocolate ice cream (or peanut butter ice cream or mint ice cream to represent different M&M flavors) and sell them by the bag in the freezer section.
I think the contrast between the hard candy shell and the soft ice cream would be divine.
Until that product emerges, my favorite ice cream candy "bar" is actually Reese' Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cups.
Growing up, I rarely heard the word "sprinkles" in conjunction with ice cream. Sprinkles were tiny, multi-colored spheres applied to baked goods, usually cupcakes. Jimmies were slightly larger, oblong-shaped chocolate or multi-colored candies used for adorning ice cream cones and sundaes.
This distinction, which is still ingrained in me, arose not because of where I grew up (Central Pennsylvania) but because of where my father grew up (Boston, Massachusetts). "Jimmies," as I later learned, is a regional term used primarily in New England, which, incidentally is the section of the country that consumes the most ice cream per capita. My father took us on the majority of our post-soft ball practice runs to Friendly's or White Mountain Creamery, so I absorbed his dialect.
There has been speculation by some that the word "jimmies" came into our parlance because their black and/or brown color gave rise to a (obviously racist) association with "Jiim Crow." People even more obsessed than I including etymologists, however, argue no substantive proof of this connection exists.
Given the plethora of subtle forms of prejudice in this country, I would really hate to think I was contributing to the bigotry when I ordered ice cream.
Readers, what's the difference (if any) for you between sprinkles and jimmies?
Happy National Strawberry Sundae Day!
[Yikes. Is she really going to cover every single contrived food holiday even marginally related to ice cream?]
YES! So, deal with it.
Are there components besides strawberries that characterize a "strawberry sundae"? Or is any sundae that prominently features strawberries a "strawberry sundae"? Did McDonald's invent this food holiday to drum up business for their version?
These are the hard-hitting questions, my friends.
As you can see, I made my own strawberry sundae last night and while I will surely be criticized by some for using vanilla ice rather than strawberry ice cream, all I will say is: "Haters gonna hate."
[Forgiveness requested with regards to the absence of the correct diacritical. I cannot figure out how to do accent grav organically on squarespace.]
Happy Belated Fourth of July! I had a quiet but delicious fourth that featured pounds of fried chicken and sweet potato pie, garnished, of course, with a scoop of ice. Which got me thinking about the origins of the phrase "à la Mode" [diacritical courtesy of Wikipedia]
Like most amazing innovations, the concept of "a la mode" came about in the nineteenth century, when Swiss restaurateur John Gieriet designed a Francophillic menu for his newly purchased hotel in Duluth, MN that included blueberry pie with ice cream:
"On the Hotel La Perl’s first day of business, John Gieriet served up a fancy dinner that included French pickles, oysters, French peas, and Lake Superior Trout. For dessert, he served warm blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream. Gieriet called the popular treat 'Pie a la Mode”.
Merci beaucoup, Msr. Gieret for promulgating a most marvelous albeit simple creation: the slice o' piece and scoop o' ice cream.
Ben & Jerry's Texas Churned Tour Van
The Ben & Jerry's Texas Churned Tour made one final stop in Houston: my house. I cannot express how exciting it was.
This morning at approximately 10:12am the van pulled up in front of my apartment complex and I was able to try a scoop of Bar-B-Que Peach and a scoop of Bourbon Pecan Pie.
This van was seriously tricked out, with intense paint detailing, an interior kitchen/scoop shop, and an external monitor that allowed people to vote on the spot for their favorite flavor.
Friendly brand ambassador Janna and her partner scooped out two samples and didn't blink when I took more than my fair share of coupons and promotional stickers.
Admittedly, I was 90% certain before the taste-test that I would prefer the Bourbon Pecan Pie because, well, booze + pie + nuts = what can go wrong? Also, I'm generally not a huge fan of fruit ice creams with the exception of strawberry. However, the flavor gurus at Ben & Jerry's have outdone themselves with Bar-B-Que Peach, which in my mind, is the clear winner for its complex layering of flavor and spice. Notes of sweet cream and stone fruit are the first to hit your tongue, followed by a familiar smoky-sweet heat from the barbecue caramel sauce. If this flavor triumphs, I cannot wait to pair it with some ribs and coleslaw.
The Bourbon Pecan Pie, it should be noted, is still to be admired. There are very large chunks of Scottish shortbread that pleasantly sponge up the liquid dairy as it melts and although technically all the alcohol has burned off in the cooking process, the caramel swirl is still redolent of whiskey and the base ice cream tastes sufficiently like bourbon as to leave some question in the mind as to whether eating an entire pint would get you just a wee bit tipsy.
Ben & Jerry's is launching an official "Texas" flavor and resident Texans are invited to vote for one of two contending flavors: Bar-B-Que Peach or Bourbon Pecan Pie.
The tour van is making its way through the state's major metropolises and will be in Houston until July 4th. I know it's late notice, but there's still time to contact Ben & Jerry's via twitter to find out how you can catch up with the #TexasChurned team, sample both flavors FOR FREE, and then vote for your favorite online.
Or, you can road trip to Austin, the next stop.
I would really like to think that with regards to ice cream, as Houston goes, so goes the Lone Star State.
UPDATE: Breaking news, readers. I have secured a visit from the van on Friday morning. Will report back on the flavors!
Forgive the blurriness, my eyes glazed over in anticipation.
This past week I received my bimonthly box from Try The World, a subscription service that sends you a curated box of food products from a particular country.
Naturally, I'm predisposed to love any type of vendor that delivers food to your door; however, Try the World is truly in a league of its own. From the cute but utilitarian packaging (collapsible Tiffany-blue boxes!), to the diversity in components (cookies, tea, sauces, spices!), to the clever touches (recipes and historical background sheets), this company has definitely tapped into what jet-setting (or those who aspire to be) foodies want.
The most recent box contained an assortment of goodies made in and traditionally associated with Argentina, including a jar of Magdalena Dulce de Leche. Some refer to Dulce de Leche as the official dessert of Argentina and while I'm not particularly well-versed in Argentine cuisine, cursory research suggests this sweet condiment is most often used to adorn baked goods.
Leave it to an American, then, to dump a whole lotta it on some vanilla bean ice cream.
This product makes generic-brand caramel seem like HFCS-flavored rubber cement.
The July issue of Food & Wine contains a mouth-watering recipe for miso caramel sauce:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup white miso
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a small saucepan, combine the cream and butter and bring just to a simmer over moderate heat.
In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, corn syrup and water and cook over moderately high heat, without stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Using a wet pastry brush, wash down any crystals from the side of the pan. Continue to cook, gently swirling the pan occasionally, until an amber caramel forms, about 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cream mixture; it will bubble up. When the bubbles subside, very carefully pour the hot caramel into a heatproof blender. With the blender on medium speed, gradually add spoonfuls of the miso until incorporated. Transfer to a bowl and let cool, then whisk in the vanilla.
The only thing stopping me from making this sauce RIGHT NOW is the absence of white miso in our pantry. I think we have approximately 400 different asian ingredients and condiments, but not that one.
The article recommends serving the miso caramel sauce with vanilla ice cream. Pshaw! If you are going to go gourmet caramel, go all the way baby. Ladle that luscious sauce over multiple scoops of Haagen-Dazs Applewood-Smoked Caramel Almond.
Well, I think it's already been established that I'm just a girl who can't say "no" when it comes to ice cream. Thus in planning my recent trip to New York City I made sure to engrave in my schedule a visit to Serendipity 3.
Serendipity 3 is not the best ice cream parlor in New York City and critics rightfully note its spotty service, lackluster (non-ice cream) menu options, and generally touristy atmosphere.
Also, there is ONE female stall for the entire two-floor establishment. Approximately 12 Tiffany lamps and 1 toilet. Welcome to New York.
Nevertheless, few can contest the fact that Serendipity's claim to fame, the Frozen Hot Chocolate, is a deliciously divine creation. That's not, however, what I wanted to try. #rebel
If I had a million dollars and no shame, I would have called 24 hours in advance to order their second most famous item, the "Golden Opulence Sundae," replete with three scoops of Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream, caviar, edible gold leaf, and chocolate syrup made Amedei Porcelana.
But since "modesty" is my middle name, I settled for the "Can't Say No" Sundae. Served in a mixing bowl-size glass dish, this sundae combines sliced banana, scoops of vanilla ice cream with the girth of softballs, hot fudge, and a generous slice of "humble pie," Serendipity's housemade chocolate peanut butter pie with a graham cracker crust. I requested (and was granted) the addition butterscotch syrup as well.
While the quality of the ice cream and syrups was top-notch, what really made the sundae was the lovely soft creamy texture of the overripe bananas and the Humble Pie, whose intense peanut butter flavor just just verged on cloying.
Goddamn, it was delicious. I cleaned my bowl and could have had another.
This weekend, I began reading a cute albeit incomplete history of ice cream written by Laura Weiss. Its section on the development of the sundae as a particularly American phenomenon was brief, confirming my suspicion that more research is warranted in this area, but Weiss did include a mention and recipe of a sundae dating back to 1918: The Over the Top.
Two things immediately strike me regarding its origins. First, the date (1918) marks the conclusion of World War I. Were American giddy from their recent victory feeling deserving of a decadent, over-the-top treat?
Second, the site of invention: Detroit, Michigan. At the turn of the century, Detroit was already an industrial center, but not, however, the country's leading center of maple syrup production. Thus, there is much more to this story regarding the sundae's signature ingredient, which is...exciting!
Thanks to my Mainer in-laws, we have a steady supply of real maple syrup delivered to our house, so that component was on hand. Whipped cream? Yes albeit in the form of Cool Whip (don't judge too harshly). Vanilla ice cream? No, but vanilla frozen yogurt would have to do.