Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with a Twist

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I have a favorite chocolate sandwich cookie that I make every so often. It started out as a basic cookie, until I tinkered with the recipe. I increased the cocoa and decreased the flour. Later, after more taste testing, I replaced some of the cocoa with some black, extra dark cocoa I had ordered from King Arthur Flour. Perfection. Darkly chocolate, slightly crunchy cookies surrounding creamy vanilla filling that tastes slightly of butter. After a day or two in an airtight container the cookies get slightly softer, which I really like.

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If you don’t want to buy special cocoa for these, they are perfectly good with only natural cocoa powder. I have seen a few different kinds of darker cocoa in the grocery store, next to the regular cocoa. I have only used natural cocoa and a little of the black cocoa, as noted in the recipe, but feel free to experiment. If you use only natural cocoa your cookies might be a lighter brown than the pictures, but they will still taste fabulous.

The last time I made the cookies, we were brainstorming different fillings we could try. We came up with cinnamon, cherry and bacon. Cherry and bacon were a little more complicated than we wanted to mess with that day, so we decided to try cinnamon. I will tinker with the bacon and cherry possibilities some day soon.

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I wanted some cookies with plain vanilla filling, so I divided the filling in half and added cinnamon. I started with ¼ teaspoon, but it was barely discernable. So I doubled it. The cinnamon flavor was stronger, but I thought it might get lost against the dark chocolate of the cookies. So I added another ¼ teaspoon. Perfection – richly cinnamon without straying across the line into too spicy.

I started out dolloping a tiny portion of filling onto the middle of a cookie and then gently squishing the filling flat with a second cookie. While this made a pretty cookie, with smooth edges on the filling, there wasn’t enough filling. I went back to my old method of smearing the filling on and adding the top cookie. Not as neat, but definitely a better ratio of cookie to filling.

I could have pulled out a piping bag to pipe the larger amount of filling into the middle of the cookies, but that was way more complicated than I wanted to get. Full disclosure: I have used my piping bag just a handful of times over the 10 years I have had it. Maybe someday I will get inspired to use it more often, but I’m not holding my breath. If you want picture perfect cookies, you can certainly use a piping bag. But I’m in favor of saving the time and cleanup and eating my slightly less-than-perfect cookies that much sooner.

Download or print just the recipe.

 Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Adapted by The Cook’s Life
From 365 Great Cookies and Brownies
Makes 45 small sandwich cookies

If you want to bump up the chocolate flavor a bit, you can substitute 2 tablespoons of dark or black cocoa for 2 tablespoons of the natural cocoa. This is totally optional, but really good.

Cookies:
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup natural cocoa powder (see headnote)
¼ teaspoon salt

Vanilla Filling:
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk, approximately

Cinnamon Filling:
1½ teaspoons cinnamon for the full recipe
¾ teaspoon cinnamon for half the recipe

Do not preheat the oven. The dough needs to chill before baking.

Beat the ½ cup butter and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again until well combined and light. Add the flour, cocoa powder and salt and mix on low speed until dough is smooth.

Divide dough in half and shape each half into a long log, about 1¼ inches in diameter. Make the logs as smooth and uniform as possible so your cookies will be uniform. Wrap the dough logs in parchment paper or plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

While dough chills, make the filling. Beat the 2 tablespoons butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined. Add milk, a teaspoon at a time, until the filling is light and fluffy.

If you are making the cinnamon filling, add the cinnamon now. Use 1½ teaspoons cinnamon if you want to make all the filling cinnamon. If you want half vanilla and half cinnamon, divide the filling in half and use ¾ teaspoon cinnamon in one half. Beat the cinnamon filling until uniform in color with no lighter streaks. Cover the filling(s) and leave at room temperature until ready to use.

When the dough is chilled preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease.

Work with one log at time, leaving the other one in the freezer until ready to slice. Use a sharp knife to cut the log into ¼-inch, or slightly thinner, rounds. Try to keep them uniform so they all bake at the same rate. Place the rounds fairly close together on the prepared baking sheets. They do not spread or rise very much at all.

Bake cookies, one pan at a time, for 5-6 minutes, or until they are firm to the touch, but not hard. The cookies will not change color, but they will puff very, very slightly.

Remove baked cookies to racks for cooling. When cookies are room temperature, spread 1-2 teaspoons of filling on the flat side of one cookie. Top with another cookie and gently press the cookies together. Leave filled cookies on the wire racks until the filling dries and sets up a bit, at least an hour. Store cookies in an airtight container for several days, or freeze for longer storage. The cookies will soften slightly after the first day.

Note: If you want to make the dough ahead of time, make four shorter logs and slip them into a ziploc bag. If it is tightly wrapped, you can freeze the dough for a month or so before using. Slice directly from the freezer and bake as directed.

Saturday Breakfast Inspirations

Saturday mornings are our only day of the week to sleep in. And they are usually the only day of the week that we indulge at breakfast. The other days of the week breakfast is something quick and healthy.

When I am really on the ball, I bake something on Friday so breakfast is ready and waiting whenever we want it on Saturday morning. The dishes are a distant dream and the morning can be family relaxation with a warm cuppa, a plate of deliciousness and the newspaper.

I was flipping through recipes on the blog (yes, it turns into my own recipe reference sometimes) for inspiration and a couple of baked treats caught my eye. I guarantee one of them is going to find its way onto the table tomorrow morning.  Which would you bake?

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Brown Sugar Cinnamon Doughnut Bites

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Sugar-Topped Cranberry Orange Muffins

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Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

Snowy Day Apple Crisp

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Yesterday we had a daylong spring snowstorm. They aren’t exactly unusual in St. Louis, but they aren’t a yearly occurrence either. We got almost a foot at our house, which is a lot for us.

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Rich’s mom was visiting from Florida and she said it was more snow than she had seen in years. My father-in-law had skipped the trip in favor of staying at home in warm weather. He was pretty much laughing at us as he played golf in the sunshine.

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Since we were stuck at home we planned a day of board games and baking. I planned to make an apple pie, vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Mary, Rich’s mom, wanted a hands on lesson in caramel sauce. I got the ice cream started and found a bag of already peeled apples in the freezer before a doozy of a migraine came out of nowhere and laid me flat for most of the afternoon. Feeling awful sent all thoughts of pie and caramel sauce out the window into the snowstorm. After I felt better I pulled together an apple crisp to go with the ice cream and we were all happy. There is no better therapy for me than playing in the kitchen, especially since everyone else washed all the dishes and cooked dinner.

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The picture of the crisp isn’t very pretty (so I’ll distract you with Rich’s pretty snow pictures).

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I had sweetened the apples with brown sugar and lots of cinnamon before I started feeling bad, thinking that would provide a nice contrast with light colored pie crust. When I made the crisp topping I also used brown sugar for the crumbs, which made the whole thing one color. When you make it, use white sugar in the filling and you will get more color contrast. Looks aside, it tasted fabulous. I still want apple pie, though. I might just have to make one in the near future to satisfy the craving.

What do you do when the weather strands you inside?

Download or print just the recipe here.

Apple Crisp with Brown Sugar Topping
From The Cook’s Life
Serves 6-8

The topping is pretty sweet – you may not want to add any sugar to the filling, especially if your apples are sweet rather than tart.

Filling:
3-4 large apples, peeled and diced
1-4 tablespoons granulated sugar, to taste
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon, to taste
1-2 tablespoons flour, if apples are juicy

Topping:
¼ cup butter, melted
½ cup flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch square casserole dish, or equivalent.

Mix apples with sugar, cinnamon and flour and spread in an even layer in greased dish.

Stir flour, brown sugar and cinnamon into melted butter until damp crumbs form. Spread in an even layer on top of apples.

Bake 30-45 minutes, or until apples are tender and topping is crunchy. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Honey Lemon Plantains

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Rich and I had another date night last Friday. We cooked dinner together, ran a couple of errands, picked up dessert (almond tarts!) from a local pastry shop and cafe and caught up on a few of our TV shows. Exciting night, I know, but we had fun. We have been having a lot of date nights lately, as my parents have been very generous with Calvin’s overnight visits. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

We had Caribbean night at dinner, with jerk seasoning rubbed pork chops and baked plantains. We also played reggae music on the stereo – gotta love being able to pick a genre on Spotify. Not sure what the neighbors thought since it was really warm outside and we had the windows open. Our taste of spring and tropical food was a nice change from heavy winter meals and cold weather.

The pork chops were okay, but not really anything special. I think I prefer my jerk seasoning on chicken, which is how we usually do it. I will try to make that sometime soon so I can share the recipe with you. The plantains, on the other hand, were fabulous.

I had never cooked plantains before, so I looked up recipes online. They were all about the same – bake ripe plantains until tender. Some recipes called for peeling and slicing the plantains first, others called for baking in the skin. I opted to peel and slice them before baking. They baked up nicely, smelling slightly of ripe bananas. As they were cooking, they caramelized beautifully, but they were a little bland. I decided to brush them with a little honey and lemon juice spiked with a little cinnamon. That was just the touch they needed.

Plantains will be showing up on our menu fairly regularly now. I liked them as we had them, as a starchy side. I’m sure they would be delicious as a dessert, with much more of the sweet syrup. As they were, they were only slightly sweet, with a very subtle banana flavor, and were a nice foil for our spicy pork chops. We will try them with chicken or fish next time, I think, for a flavor of the Caribbean in the middle of the Midwest.

Download or print just the recipe here.

Honey Lemon Plantains
From The Cook’s Life
Serves 3-4

Ripe plantains are dark yellow with lots of black spots. They will feel slightly soft when pressed, but won’t be squishy like really ripe bananas.

Cooking spray or vegetable oil
2 large ripe plantains
salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons lemon juice
dash ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a nonstick baking sheet or line with parchment paper and grease the parchment. Don’t skip this step – the plantains tend to stick. Set aside.

Peel the plantains by slicing off the ends and then slitting the skin with a knife down the side. Peel the skin away from the flesh. Slice the plantain into 1-1½ slices and place cut side down on the prepared baking sheet.

Spray pieces lightly with cooking spray or brush lightly with oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn slices over and bake for another 10 minutes, or until golden brown on both sides and tender when pierced with a fork.

While plantains are baking, heat honey for 15 seconds in the microwave, or until hot. Add lemon juice and cinnamon and stir well. Set aside until plantains are baked.

When plantains are done, brush tops with honey and lemon mixture. Serve immediately with any extra honey sauce on the side.

A Trio of Vanillas

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How much thought do you put into vanilla extract? If you are the average bear, not much. Well, if you are a bear, probably none at all. In our house, we think about vanilla a lot. It is one of our favorite flavors and we probably spend way too much time thinking about it.

Rich’s mother asked us for Christmas ideas in November (she is on the ball with all things, but especially Christmas shopping). I had seen a vanilla extract sampler with one bottle each of Madagascar, Tahitian and Mexican extracts in the King Arthur Flour catalog and thought it would be perfect for Rich. I like vanilla, but Rich likes it a LOT. When he bakes anything, he usually doubles the vanilla. And if I ask his opinion about adapting a recipe, he always wants to increase the vanilla. (I wonder how many more times I can write the word “vanilla” before I finish this post?)

I was right about the success of the present. Rich was thrilled. We both have been having fun using the various extracts in different recipes. The extracts smell a little different from each other in the bottles, but they smell wildly different when they are cooking in something. We keep thinking we should make something like custard, vanilla pudding or ice cream with each different extract so we can do side by side taste tests. Are we food nerds, or what?

Last week I made waffles and used the Tahitian extract. The whole house smelled like those fabulous ice cream shops that make their own cones. The waffles didn’t taste exactly like ice cream cones – they were better. The Tahitian extract is more floral, with a lighter scent but a deeper vanilla flavor than typical vanilla extract.

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The Madagascar extract is closest to “regular” vanilla. It is vanilla, but certainly not plain vanilla. Try adding a little more than the recipe calls for and see what it does for chocolate chip cookies, brownies or your favorite cake.

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The Mexican extract has a deeper, fuller scent and flavor than the other two. It is more assertive, if you can call a flavor like vanilla assertive. So far I have used it in flourless chocolate cakes, homemade caramel sauce and the icing for biscuit cinnamon rolls. It pairs particularly well with chocolate and cinnamon. Strangely enough that was what the label said. I guess sometimes the label writers really know what they are talking about.

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Tonight we had blueberry pancakes for dinner, with a little Tahitian vanilla in the batter. I have been adding a teaspoon of vanilla to my pancake batter since I happened to see a recipe for pancakes that was almost identical to mine, with the addition of vanilla. I can’t imagine why we hadn’t thought of that, given our crazy vanilla obsession fascination. The whole house again smells like an ice cream shop.

We don’t have a favorite. It would be like choosing which kid we liked best, if we had more than one. Why should we have to choose between our vanillas? Like children, we love each vanilla for its own unique attributes. That might be going a little far, but we are having fun playing around with them.

How do you have fun in the kitchen?

A Taste of Childhood – Snickerdoodles


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Snickerdoodles are one of those old-fashioned recipes that should never go out of style. Sure, you have your chocolate explosion this and your caramelized toasted nut that, but you can’t go wrong with recipes that have lasted through the generations. There is something to be said for cookies (and pies and cakes) that celebrate the unadulterated flavors of butter and sugar.

My grandmother (mom’s mom) made snickerdoodles often when I was growing up. They were some of my favorites, with no nuts or chocolate that I might not like. Yes, I went through a period when I didn’t like chocolate. I chose Creamsicles over Fudgsicles, butterscotch chips over chocolate and ate only the insides of Oreos. It was a short time (and I was very young) when I thought chocolate was too dark and strong. It was actually in Grandma’s kitchen when I first ate chocolate and liked it. We had stopped by for something and she was taking chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. I had a warm cookie, complete with gooey chocolate, and I haven’t looked back since.

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Back to the snickerdoodles – Grandma kept them in a 3-pound coffee can with a plastic lid. The aroma wafting out of that can when she opened the lid is indescribable. Cinnamon and butter mixed with that “something” that is the magic of cookies. There was nothing like finishing Sunday dinner and having Grandma leave the table and come back with that cookie can.

The recipe uses mostly ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. You might have to buy cream of tartar, but it is right in the grocery store along with the spices. Trust me, these cookies are super easy and taste nothing like anything you can buy, even in a bakery. These rank among some of my absolute favorites, even in my current chocolate-loving days. What are your favorite homemade cookies?

Download or print recipe here.

 

Snickerdoodles
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 80 small or 60 medium cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

Topping:
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Beat butter and sugar together until completely combined and no longer gritty. Add eggs and beat again until light and fluffy.

Add flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Mix well.

Chill for an hour or up to several days.

If your dough is very cold and hard after chilling, let it rest on the counter for a few minutes to soften while the oven preheats.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment, or lightly grease. Mix together topping ingredients in a small bowl.

Roll dough into small balls, about 1-inch in diameter, or use a 2-teaspoon cookie scoop to portion out the dough. You can make larger balls for larger cookies if you like. Roll balls in topping mixture.

Place coated balls on prepared baking sheets, leaving room for the cookies to spread. Bake 7-8 minutes for small cookies, or 8-10 minutes for medium cookies. Cookies will puff up first and then flatten in the oven. Bake until lightly browned on the bottom, but still soft and a little puffy.

Let cookies cool on pans for about two minutes. Remove cookies to a rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

Spicy S’mores Brownies

Rich mentioned last Sunday that he needed a dessert to take to work on Wednesday, for an office Halloween celebration. He wanted something decadent and chocolate. We thought of brownies, and then took it several steps further, as we almost always do.

We had just been to several outdoor parties, complete with fire pit and s’mores, which started the thought processes. A few times we have made s’mores at home with chili chocolate (Lindt makes a nice one). We have also used cinnamon graham crackers, sometimes with plain chocolate and sometimes with the chili chocolate. We have done a few desserts with the flavor combination of chocolate, cinnamon and chilis. Why not brownies?

We made our standard graham cracker crust with a lot of extra cinnamon and pressed it in the brownie pan. Brownie batter came next, with an addition of chipotle powder to give it a little kick. When the brownies were almost baked, we topped them with marshmallows and baked them a bit more. I also used my birthday present kitchen torch (thanks, Rich!) to toast the top of the marshmallows. I think the double cooking made the marshmallows a bit too chewy. Next time I will either just bake them, or just torch them, not both. I wrote the recipe for baking, since most people probably don’t have a kitchen torch (though I must say, it is a fun toy!).

And, thus, Spicy S’mores Brownies were born. Enjoy!

Download or print the recipe here.

Spicy S’mores Brownies
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 30 small brownies

Adjust the chipotle powder to your tastes. As written, it provides a very subtle spicy kick. I will use more next time (maybe even double the amount). If you don’t have chipotle powder, you can use cayenne, but bear in mind it might be hotter than chipotle, so use a little less.

Crust:
1 package graham crackers (about 11 full sheets)
¼ cup powdered sugar
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ cup butter, melted

Brownies:
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, cut 1-inch pats
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups packed brown sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ teaspoon ground chipotle powder
1 cup all-purpose flour

Topping:
2 cups mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 by 13 inch pan.

Crush graham crackers in a food processor or place in a plastic bag and roll with a rolling pin until finely crushed. Add powdered sugar and cinnamon to crumbs and mix well. Pour mixture into prepared pan and add ¼ cup melted butter. Mix well and press into a single layer. Set aside.

Heat ¾ cup butter and chocolate in microwave for 1½ -2 minutes, or until melted and smooth. Stir halfway through cooking time. Add brown sugar to chocolate mixture and mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add vanilla and chipotle powder. Stir in flour. Spread batter gently over graham cracker crust, trying not to disturb the crust much (it will be fine if some of the crumbs end up mixed in).

Bake brownies for about 15 minutes, or until almost set. Spread marshmallows on top and bake for an additional 5 minutes, until marshmallows are puffed and just starting to color.

Cool in pan on a rack until room temperature before cutting. A wet knife will cut through the marshmallows with less sticking. These are rich – cut into small pieces.These keep well at room temperature for several days, stored in an airtight container.

Cinnamon French Toast Casserole

I’m pretty sure that most people make at least slight variations to recipes from time to time. I know I do (and I like to think that I’m not weird). Sometimes I am substituting for ingredients that I don’t like or don’t have. Other times I am trying to jazz up a dish that we have all the time.

Last week I wanted to make French toast casserole for dinner, but I wanted to do something to make it different. I knew I had a few ends of cinnamon bread and cinnamon rolls in the freezer, which I thought might add a new twist to our normal recipe. We also had part of a tub of whipped cream cheese that I wanted to use up

The original recipe calls for beating regular block-style cream cheese with eggs, milk and maple syrup to make a batter to pour over the cubed bread. I decided to skip the mixer and spread my whipped cream cheese over half the bread, and then top it with the other half. Then I could just whisk the eggs, milk and maple syrup together and skip the hassle of hauling out the mixer and washing it when I was done with it.

As usual, I didn’t know when to stop – I also doubled the cinnamon in the batter, and baked the casserole in individual ramekins instead of a big casserole dish. I greased and sugared the ramekins to make sure it would be easy to get the casserole out of the dishes for serving. As an added plus, the ramekins took only a little over half an hour to bake, instead of close to an hour for a large casserole.

My adaptations worked out so well that they might become permanent parts of the recipe. If you don’t have odds and ends of cinnamon bread and rolls in the freezer, you can easily buy either cinnamon bread or even cinnamon raisin bread and use it instead of the cinnamon rolls/bread or regular bread. Challah or brioche would be good too, or whole wheat bread, leftover scones or biscuits, or even cake if you wanted to make dessert instead of dinner or breakfast. Canned pumpkin whisked into the egg mixture might be a nice change for fall. Or throw in some finely diced apples, or even leftover fried apples.

Be sure and post in the comments if you try this version, one of my suggestions, or one that is uniquely your own.

Fried Apples

Over the last few weeks I have been longing for fall weather. I need long no more – today’s weather is all fall, though not brisk, sunny fall weather. It is dreary, damp and chilly – just the day for fried apples.

My parents made variations of fried apples when I was growing up. There was never a recipe, just a technique – apple slices cooked in a little butter, sometimes with white or brown sugar and cinnamon, and sometimes not. Depending on the apples, they were sometimes soft and saucy, other times browned and caramelized, with very little sauce.

My grandmother (Mom’s mother) made cinnamon fried apples for an accompaniment to Sunday dinner sometimes. I loved them because she made them with a handful of Red Hots to give them color and flavor. I was always amazed how red they got and how quickly those hard little candies melted into the mix.

I am skipping the fire engine red candy to bring you a recipe that you probably can make without a trip to the store. Apples with a touch of brown sugar, butter and cinnamon – the apples are the true star of the show here. If you go apple picking this fall, make sure you make some fried apples out of your bounty; preferably on the day you pick them. I don’t usually consider fruit a dessert, but if you make fried apples out of apples that were on the tree just hours before, they are good enough to (almost) push apple pie out of the way for a day.

Try these as topping for biscuits, toast or pancakes or as a side dish with dinner. I like them warm, but they are pretty good right out of the fridge, if you have any leftovers.

Fried Apples
From The Cook’s Life
Serves 4-6

Adjust amounts to suit your tastes, but be careful with the sugar – it is easy to add too much and make them too sweet.

4 medium apples, any variety
2 teaspoons butter
1-4 tablespoons water, if necessary
1-3 tablespoons brown sugar, to taste
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Peel, core and quarter the apples. Slice each quarter into approximately ¼-inch slices. Heat the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until melted. Add the apples and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, 15-30 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low if the apples start to get too brown. Time will vary depending on the apple variety. If apples start to stick to the pan, add a tablespoon of water. If want a saucier consistency, or your apples aren’t juicy enough, add up to 4 tablespoons of water to the pan as you cook the apples.

Taste one piece and decide if you want to add a little brown sugar, a lot, or none. Add cinnamon, if desired. Cook, stirring constantly, about 5 more minutes. Serve hot, or at room temperature.

These reheat well in the microwave or in a pan on low heat. Add a little water if apples start to stick when reheating on the stovetop.

Download the recipe here.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Before we had our ice cream maker, well even after, we had only eaten cinnamon ice cream in restaurants and ice cream shops. I’m not sure why we hadn’t tried making it ourselves – it is a nice change from vanilla ice cream for topping apple pie or chocolate cake. That is, if you like cinnamon as much as we do.

We don’t buy cinnamon at the grocery store, not in those little jars. We are lucky enough to have a Penzey’s spice store about twenty minutes away and we are regulars. They sell cinnamon in four ounce bags for refilling your spice jar and we buy two of those every four months or so. I know, that is half a pound of cinnamon in four months. But we use a lot of it. And it is certainly cheaper to buy it in bulk. And the Penzey’s cinnamon is fresher and just better than the grocery store cinnamon. (I am not in any way affiliated or compensated by Penzey’s – I just like their products.)

Back to the ice cream – the recipe is basically our vanilla ice cream with added cinnamon. We use a heavier hand with the cinnamon (see the above paragraph) so use the lesser amount of cinnamon if you want a less intense flavor.

Homemade ice cream can sometimes get pretty hard after the first day in the freezer. One way to offset this is to add a little bit of vodka at the end of the freezing process. It doesn’t affect the flavor, just the texture. The alcohol has a lower freezing point than the ice cream, so it keeps the ice cream from freezing as hard. You are only adding a tablespoon to the whole batch, so there are no worries about serving this to everyone, including kids. But if you are uncomfortable using it – don’t. Your ice cream will be wonderful without it. We use it sometimes, and not others. It is totally optional, but if you have no objection to the alcohol, try it once and see how you like the texture of your ice cream after a day or two in the freezer. This is also assuming you don’t eat all the ice cream in one sitting, in which case the vodka is totally not necessary.

Cinnamon Ice Cream
from The Cook’s Life
Makes about 1½ quarts

Use the larger amount of cinnamon if you want your ice cream spicier. You can always taste your mixture before you freeze it in your ice cream maker and adjust the cinnamon level. Flavors will be a bit more muted after freezing.

1/3 cup sugar
1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Dash salt
2 cups half and half*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vodka (optional)

Stir brown sugar, cinnamon and salt together in a medium bowl. This will help the cinnamon mix in more evenly. Add half and half and vanilla and stir until sugar is dissolved. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions – ours takes about 25 minutes. Add vodka, if using, during last 5 minutes of freezing. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze for several hours before serving.

* You can use all cream, which will make a richer ice cream. Half and half makes a creamy ice cream, with a little less fat and without the greasy mouth feel you can sometimes get with all cream.

 Download the recipe here.