Monday, October 16, 2006
A slothful, er, restorative weekend...
I hope you enjoy more pictures taken from my office window, because that's all I have to offer today. I wish I had a better food-related post to share with you, my friends, but there hasn't been much to blog about coming out of my kitchen this weekend--mostly just leftovers. This is due to two main factors. One is, as usual, the lack of an oven. But, keep your fingers crossed and send up a little prayer--the second new oven should be delivered tomorrow. Whether it will work or not, well, that's another story. But I will just be despondent if I can't start baking again soon. I am missing the glory of the high apple season! The back fridge is filled to the brim with lovely heirloom baking apples such as Wealthy and Wolf River, just begging to be fashioned into crumbles and pies and bars and loaves. And I am feeling a real need to bake some other kinds of bread, too. [big sigh]
More significantly, and for the first time in quite a long time, I did nothing this weekend. No big food projects of any kind, other than my kind roomie picking the rest of the peppers from the garden. This means that more pepper jelly will happen soon, but as I was out of Certo and canning jars, not this weekend. On a side note, why do all of the grocery stores order canning supplies just for the summer, and not enough for the fall when you really need them--that is, during harvest time??! It makes no sense. The only thing that makes less sense and is more maddening is watching Sandra Lee make pear crepes with pre-fab crepes, vanilla pudding from a pudding six-pack, and CANNED pears! But she she did use a real vanilla bean, so I guess that was one small redemption in an otherwise hellish recipe. But I digress...
So back to my unapologetic sloth this weekend. And I had plans, too! Anthony and Michelle of Endless Banquet fame reported that there would be an impromptu produce sale by a very special farmer named Patrice Fortier from Kamouraska, Quebec (about four hours northeast of Montreal, I'd estimate). But I just couldn't find the will to make the drive. Truth to tell, I couldn't find the will to do much that didn't involve my bed or the comfy counch! You see, we are in the thick of midterms at school, and I had a hellish grading load this past week, and I'm facing another one starting tomorrow. So I guess I just needed to be comatose for a couple of days and catch up on the sleep that I missed last week. [zzzzzzz]
The one thing I did make this weekend that I was craving was homemade butter pecan ice cream. As the lovely and talented Bakerina once said, ice cream is the only thing that will save us now! Of course, she said that during the sweltering summer, but every season is ice cream season to me. As my friends will attest, I like to bake lots of sweet things, but I actually don't have a big sweet tooth myself...except when it comes to ice cream, that is. Heck, one of my guilty pleasures is ice cream for breakfast. ;-) What?? It's dairy and eggs, right? For this particular batch, I used a slightly less rich version of the Bakerina's vanilla ice cream base (four egg yolks instead of six), one of my recently-acquired vanilla beans, and about a cup and a half of whole pecans toasted in butter. Heaven help us! It's just sinful! And here's the recipe. Enjoy it, and get some sleep afterwards, won't you? You deserve it!
Butter Pecan Ice Cream
(Source: adapted from Prepare to Meet Your Bakerina)
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean
3/4 granulated sugar, divided
4 egg yolks
pinch (or two!) salt
1 1/2 cups whole pecans
3 tablespoons butter
pinch of salt
In a 3-quart saucepan, combine the milk, cream and half the sugar, and stir to combine. Split the vanilla bean with a paring knife, scrape the seeds out of the bean with the blunt side of the knife, and add both seeds and the bean husk to the pot. Bring to the boil. While the milk and cream are coming to the boil, beat the egg yolks with the remainder of the sugar in a large bowl until the mixture has lightened and the color is a paler yellow (about two minutes by hand).
Once the milk and cream have come to the boil, whisk them very gradually into the yolks, then add the salt. Rinse the saucepan which held the milk and cream, pour the whole mixture from the bowl back into the pan, and return to the heat, using a medium-low heat. Have another large bowl and a strainer close by. Stir the custard constantly as it cooks. You want to cook this until it coats the back of a spoon.
Strain the custard into its waiting bowl. Place your bowl into an ice bath and stir occasionally until the mixture has chilled. Cover it with plastic wrap and chill completely in the fridge for at least four hours, preferably overnight.
In a saute pan over medium heat, toast the pecans in the butter until they just start to brown. Remove from heat, sprinkle with salt, and set aside to cool completely.
When you are ready to churn the ice cream, set up your ice cream machine, pour in the custard (tasting it to see if it needs more salt, as chilling dulls flavor) and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Churn it until it holds a shape but is still somewhat soft. Add the pecans and churn a bit more until the nuts are mixed in well. Transfer to a lined loaf pan or a plastic container with a lid and let "ripen" in the freezer for at least two hours until firm before scooping and serving.