Baklava ice cream

Baklava ice cream

We’ve arrived at the last day of Ice Cream Week and today’s theme is Original Recipe.

Though this is the last ice cream recipe I’m posting in this series, it’s actually the first one I made. When family came to visit in late June, we had the idea of making a Greek feast for the first night.

Baklava ice cream - Chopped walnuts

Deciding what to serve for dinner was easy, especially when my sister offered to pick up dolmas, hummus, and fresh pita from one of the Armenian groceries outside of Boston. But dessert had me a bit stumped. I wanted to make baklava, but I knew this crowd was going to be in the mood for a light dessert. I wanted something less than full-on baklava, but something more than a bowl of fruit.

Baklava ice cream - Vanilla & cinnamon

When Phyl suggested Ice Cream Week, it occurred to me that I could make a baklava ice cream and serve it in tiny scoops so that guests could choose to have just a bite and still feel like they had something special.

When I didn’t find a baklava ice cream recipe that I liked (in particular, I wanted the ice cream to incorporate the delicate rose-flavored syrup of my favorite baklava recipe), I decided to create my own by combining components from other recipes to make a vanilla-cinnamon-honey base, drizzled with rose-water syrup and sprinkled with chopped walnuts.

Baklava ice cream - Honey

I love how this one turned out. The ice cream has exactly the flavor and texture I was hankering for, and the tiny pre-made phyllo shells that M found at the grocery store turned the mini desserts into finger food. Just the right ending to our Greek dinner, and to Ice Cream Week. Thanks for the fun idea, Phyl!

Here’s a recap of the ice creams from the week:

Blueberry-buttermilk ice cream
Goat yogurt-cajeta ripple
Mango ice (Raspado de mango)
Nutella gelato

And here are the original ice cream recipes that the rest of the gang has churned up:

Margaret’s Tea and Biscuit Ice Cream
Phyl’s Guinness Stout Ice Cream
Di’s Darkest Chocolate Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Baklava ice cream

Makes about 1 quart
for the ice cream base
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
3 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup honey

for the rose syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon rose water

1 cup walnuts, chopped
mini phyllo shells (mini puff pastry shells or mini waffle cups will also do)

  1. In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup of the milk and the cornstarch and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt together, and set aside.
  3. Combine the remaining milk, the cream, the split vanilla beans and seeds, and the cinnamon sticks in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a low, rolling boil, and cook for four minutes.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the cornstarch mixture and the honey.
  5. Return the mixture to a boil, and cook, stirring, until the mixture is slightly thickened, for one or two minutes (note: if it doesn’t thicken much, don’t worry).
  6. Gradually whisk the hot milk/cream mixture into the cream cheese.
  7. Chill the mixture overnight (or use Jeni’s quick-cool method).
  8. Make the syrup by combining the sugar and water and bringing to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Add the rose water, return to a boil, cook for 3-4 minutes, then let cool.
  9. Remove the vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks from the chilled base.
  10. Freeze the ice cream according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.
  11. In a freezer-safe container, add a layer of the ice cream base, then drizzle in a layer of syrup, then add a layer of chopped nuts, then another layer of ice cream, and so on, until the container is full.
  12. Cover with a sheet of parchment cut to size, seal container tightly, and freeze for several hours until hard.
  13. To serve, warm the phyllo shells according to package directions. Use a teaspoon or small cookie or ice cream scoop to make a tiny scoop of ice cream and place it in the crisped shell. If you have any syrup or nuts left, you can add a final drizzle or sprinkle to the top of the ice cream. Serve 2-3 mini scoops/shells per person.

Nutella gelato

Nutella gelato

A repeated fond memory.

It’s a heat-thickened summer evening—July or August—and the sun is going down, in the quiet hours between dinner time and bed time.

My sister and I are sitting on the tiny front porch of our grandparents’ house, the porch they called the “veranda”.

The veranda is just big enough for three blue plastic chairs, squeezed together so that you are in contact with the person you’re sitting next to. But it’s plenty big for two little girls keeping tabs on the neighborhood as kitchen lights go off and porch lights come on.

The front door is open and through the screen door we can hear dishes clinking in the kitchen.

Moths are fluttering about, drawn over and over again to the ceiling light.

The television is on in the living room and its light flickers randomly through the curtains of the front window.

Crickets are chirping.

Neighborhood kids are riding their bikes home in the last of the day’s light.

Grandpa comes out with two small blue bowls of ice cream. In Canada, we do things differently than we do at home. For instance, we buy ice cream in small cardboard boxes and cut slices of it rather than serve scoops. On special nights, we have ice cream sandwiches made of a slice of ice cream between two toasted (previously frozen) waffles. But more often, we have the slice in a blue bowl.

When grandpa serves ice cream, it’s always chocolate. Plain chocolate. Milky, sweet, and just right. Chocolate at home ever tastes as good as Canadian chocolate. Silverwood’s chocolate milk, like a melted candy bar in a glass. Jersey Milk chocolate bars, creamy, with a touch of vanilla. Candy-coated chocolate Smarties, warmed and melty from sitting in the sun all day, that we carefully sorted by color and savored piece by piece after swimming all afternoon.

And the slice of chocolate ice cream at the end of a perfect day. Just me and my sister, scraping the bowls with our spoons, sharing the secrets of our childhood, the only two who hold that specific, sweet memory of a summer night on the veranda.

This Nutella gelato is far fancier than that long ago dish of store-brand ice cream, but its rich, smooth chocolateyness, sandwiched between two butter cookies is a close approximation. It’s almost a time machine back to summer nights when what mattered most was a slice of ice cream and staving off bed time just a little bit longer.

Theme for Friday: Original recipe

Take a look at the nutty recipes from other Ice Cream week participants:

Phyl’s Molasses Almond Praline Ice Cream
Margaret’s Baklava Ice Cream

Nutella gelato

from Giada De Laurentis

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
4 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, crushed, for garnish (optional)

In a saucepan combine the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup sugar over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whip the egg yolks with the remaining sugar using an electric mixer until the eggs have become thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes.

Pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk and cream mixture into the egg mixture and stir.

Add this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Place a strainer over a medium bowl and pour the warm custard mixture through the strainer. Stir in the vanilla and hazelnut spread until it dissolves.

Chill mixture completely before pouring into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions to freeze. To serve, scoop gelato into serving bowls (optionally, top with hazelnuts).

Italian Folktales ~ Day 2 (June 26, 2011), Verona

From the airplane window, we saw the Alps.

We’d flown all night from Canada to Paris, then had 45 minutes to run from one end of Charles De Gaulle to the other, through customs, through security, onto a shuttle bus, and then onto our little plane. We were out of breath, a bit disoriented from the overnight flight, and distracted, wondering if our luggage had successfully made the same journey we just did (it didn’t).

But the Alps startled us out of all mundane thoughts. We pressed our faces to the windows and gaped. This is how vacation starts.

Alps - From Paris to Verona

Crossing the Alps

Verona is lovely. The 2000-year-old Verona Arena is the city’s centerpiece. You can tell yourself how ancient it is, that Romans built it and filled its stone seats, but it’s hard to comprehend how old it really is.

Verona Arena with roses
Verona Arena

Verona’s people are friendly and helpful in ways that only non-Italian-speaking visitors who are new to town and have been separated from their luggage can fully appreciate.

If you’re new to the country, Verona will instruct you in the color schemes of Italy: rich brown, ruddy terracotta, delicate pink, subtle yellow. You’ll see flowers everywhere.

Flower balcony

If it’s hot, you might just have to eat gelato four times that first day because, well, it’s really hot, and the gelato is a revelation of flavors: bacio, gianduja, fior di latte, stracciatella, melone, fragola, limone, frutti di bosco, cannella. The servings are piccolo, Italian-sized. Go on, have another.

And then, just before dusk falls, when the later afternoon air is still steamy, but you have an inkling of what cool might begin to feel like, you line up at your gate at the arena, because the opera is getting underway in just a few hours and you want to enjoy every leisurely second of it.

Full stage
Parade with horses

June 26 trip diary
M ~ Thomas Mann evidently knew something about human nature, which worked out very well for Leiber & Stoller when they turned a near-verbatim ripoff* of Mann’s 1896 short story “Disillusionment” into the song “Is That All There Is…?” which was about, well, disillusionment, and which became a big hit for Peggy Lee in 1969.

Samuel Johnson knew human nature too, and he knew that because the world is what it is we often spend more time anticipating an event than actually experiencing it, and the experience itself can end up as a coda, nothing but a springboard to “ok what’s next?”. Johnson pointed this out many times but perhaps best when he wrote “The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.”**

And yet life doesn’t always have to work out that way, and for me, for each of us I think, the Opera in Verona ended up easily better, and more satisfactory, than our long anticipation of it might have led us to think possible – but not, for me at least, in the way i would have expected.

“Aida outdoors in a Roman ampitheatre, huge production, spectacle, a bigger performance maybe than we’d ever seen before!!” was where I was at. Given the venue, i was expecting I suppose, literally, a circus. And it was big, and it was over the top and yes there were even real live horses. But its effect was something very else.

The vast performance merged with, rather than overpowered, the Veronese night– so much so that at one point well into the second half of that big Verdi opera all that big Verdi music and those big Verdi voices slipped away almost entirely into the background — actually it was me slipping away, as two days of travel and no sleep and 80 degree heat and sitting still and wine and cheese and salami and bread and H and R and me on those rented cushions high up the hot stone bleachers all came together to reduce the noise and spectacle and drama to a lambent part of a greater whole as my mind and eye wandered from the deep blue night in the east to the barest ember-orange in the west, all along the busy line of campanile bell towers, terracotta rooflines and cable dish/antennas pricking the horizon just above eye-height beyond the stagelights necklaced around the vast rim of that old marble bowl. Even with my eyes closed the music would not take over. I may have slept, or nearly slept, at least for a few minutes at some point. Or maybe not– it was that hard to tell.

Great handfuls of swallows had come out as soon as the sun had dipped, and though it was quite dark by the time I’m talking about many of them still darned the air over the city, and even months later sitting at a desk it doesn’t feel particularly silly to say that with the sky so low and clear it seemed like the swallows were dipping and banking for the early stars rather than competing for bugs, invisible to us but not to them, floating in the cooling air.

People who’ve taken LSD often say that they’re different, or see things differently, long after the trip is over. That they’ve been changed or realigned for good. It may be too much to ascribe that same level of alteration to having attended a late outdoor opera jetlagged on the first night in a new country right after your lost luggage has been all but found, but then again it may not. I have to say that that feeling, the realization that a gigantic mannered art form had suddenly bowed like a practiced and smiling courtier and stepped back into the crowd without seeming ever to have moved, was new then and is with me still. But then again what am i talking about but something fitting in, Belonging– and it was Italy and it was opera, after all.

ps – Peggy Lee has two signature songs. The early one is “Fever” and the later one is “Is That All There Is…?”. You could make a good argument that taken together and in that order those songs sum up the arc from anticipation to experience better than Mann or Johnson ever did.
* i didn’t know this until today, either.
** So far as I know, no one has ever incorporated this sentence into a pop standard.

I’d eat that

Morano Gelato Status

Do you see that reference to “goat’s milk chocolate chip“? That’s our Willow’s milk!

Willow 2

She looks kinda pleased, doesn’t she?

For the past couple of weeks, Morgan at Morano Gelato has been churning some test batches of goats’ milk gelato made with Willow’s milk. This week’s version includes several ounces of chevre we made with the same milk, which makes the gelato’s texture even creamier and lends a touch more “goatiness” to the flavor (Willow’s milk is very mild and “ungoaty”).

If you live anywhere near Hanover, NH today, run on over to Morano Gelato before it’s all gone. If you miss the goat milk gelato, stay to order something else. It’s all stunningly wonderful.