Three Ice Cream Recipes

Word has it that a three-day weekend is coming up. And word also has it that this weekend is the end of summer – the end of school vacation and of summer weather. Eh, not so much here in St. Louis. School started three weeks ago for most of the districts in the area. And summer weather will stick around for at least another month.

End of summer or not, I will still enjoy my long weekend, probably with a batch of ice cream or two along the way.

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Brown Sugar Cinnamon

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Chocolate Amaretto

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Mint Chocolate Chip

No need to turn on the oven to make dessert for any celebrations this weekend. And no need to spend time making a custard and then letting it chill. Most of my ice cream recipes, and certainly these three, start with the same easy formula – half and half and sugar. Add a few flavorings and a little freezing time and you are on your way to eating cold, creamy ice cream.

Whether you are ready to say goodbye to summer, or not, ice cream always helps.

Brownie Sundaes on the Fourth

We got to have a holiday within a vacation this year, with the Fourth of July falling in the middle of our week in Colorado. It both felt like a holiday, and didn’t, since we were already off work, but it was a great day. Rich’s parents took Calvin to the town parade, but Rich and I decided to skip the crowds and go on a hike. Everyone else in the area was at the parade, it seemed, so we had the trail to ourselves. We could hear the celebration in the distance every so often, but it was mostly quiet, with a few bird calls. Ah, bliss!

We spent the afternoon relaxing and then getting ready for our barbecue dinner. We planned brownies, vanilla ice cream (not homemade, since the condo doesn’t have an ice cream maker for some reason. If you have one, try this recipe) and hot fudge sauce for dessert. The brownies were from “Pie in the Sky” by Susan Purdy. We used the adaptations for 10,000 feet, but I am posting the sea level version since I think they will have more universal appeal. The brownies were good yesterday, but they are actually better today. The fudge sauce was my recipe from the Joy of Cooking. It was an experiment, since I wasn’t sure how to adapt it for high altitude. It ended up working just fine, with no adaptations – another point in that recipe’s favor.

The rest of the dinner (in case you are interested in more than dessert) was hamburgers, bratwurst, corn on the cob, baked beans, parmesan crusted zucchini chips, salad with every veggie we could think of and chips and dip. We could hardly fit the brownie sundaes in, but we managed.

Rich’s folks invited their friends, Jim and Paige, to share our celebratory dinner. In fact, Paige follows the blog and saw my mention of the brownies in Tuesday’s post. She and Jim were hoping I hadn’t changed my mind about making them before they came for dinner. Paige and I talked a little about cooking and baking at high altitude. She and I will have to talk more the next time we come for a visit. Paige, I know you are reading this, so be sure to post a comment.

I hope everyone reading had a good celebration for the Fourth. To me, there is nothing better than a day when you can do what you like, topped off by a dinner with friends and family. Brownies sundaes for dessert can’t hurt either.

Independence Pass Brownies
from “Pie in the Sky” by Susan G. Purdy
Adapted slightly by The Cook’s Life
Makes 9-12 brownies, 8-inch square pan

These baked up into slightly chewy, very dark brownies. They were good the day they were made, but they were even better the next day. The chocolate chips all sank to the bottom of mine. You might want to sprinkle some, or all, of the chips on top of your brownies instead of mixing them in.

1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts or white chocolate chips (optional, I didn’t use them)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan.

Mix cocoa, flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Beat eggs in a separate bowl. Add vanilla and butter and mix well. Add egg mixture to cocoa mixture and stir well. Make sure there are no dry streaks of flour. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs. Don’t over bake. Cool the brownies on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

Chocolate Chip Double Mint Ice Cream

While we make all kinds of sundaes with our homemade vanilla and cinnamon ice creams, we have yet to try making more elaborate ice cream flavors. I was looking to branch out into new ice cream territory (at least for us) this week. Rich and Calvin both voted for mint, though I have to say that isn’t my favorite ice cream flavor. But the cook can’t always cook just to please herself.

Calvin and I came up with the embellishments to this one. I had to rein him in a little bit, since he wanted to make the ice cream chocolate, and add chocolate chips and crushed peppermints. I wanted to get the mint flavor first before we started adding chocolate ice cream into the mix too.

We had leftover crushed mints from making Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheels at Christmas. I thought we could just pull those out of the cabinet and pour them into the ice cream, but when I opened the container I found them solidified into a clump the shape of the container. We had to use the food processor to break up the big chunk of candy bits, so we ended up with pink minty dust.

We were going to mix the crushed candies into the ice cream as it churned, but then I realized that would make the ice cream pink, which wasn’t really what we were going for. So we layered them in after the ice cream was done churning, which made for pockets of pink mintiness in the already minty ice cream. We were also going to use a lot more chopped chocolate, but when we started adding it, we realized less was going to be more. Now we have lots of chopped chocolate for sprinkling on top.

Rich and Calvin both decided this experiment is a keeper. Let me know what you think. And share any new ice cream flavor ideas, or your tried-and-true favorites.

Chocolate Chip Double Mint Ice Cream
from The Cook’s Life
Makes about 1½ quarts

Use the larger amount of peppermint extract for a stronger mint flavor. The optional vodka will help keep the ice cream a little softer and easier to scoop after the first day or two in the freezer. Feel free to skip it if you prefer.

2 cups half and half*
1/3 cup sugar
Dash salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ to ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
1 tablespoon vodka (optional)
½ cup chopped chocolate (I used Ghirardelli Bittersweet chips)
¼ cup crushed peppermint candy

Mix half and half, sugar, salt and extracts together in a large bowl 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.

Add the chopped chocolate right before the ice cream finishes churning, just to mix it in. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container, alternating big spoons of ice cream with heavy sprinkles of the crushed peppermint candy. When you scoop the ice cream there will be pockets of the pink candy in each scoop. Transfer to the freezer 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.

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.

Anything but Plain – Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

We have had our share of summer weather all ready this year in St. Louis. I could say that is the reason for writing a post on ice cream, but around our house ice cream is a year-round dessert. We joke that we will wrap up in a blanket if we have to, but we won’t be without our ice cream just because it is cold outside.

Vanilla ice cream from the grocery store can be ho hum, but homemade vanilla ice cream is a treat, plain and simple. I know it is probably sacrilege, but I really prefer the taste of vanilla ice cream made with vanilla extract instead of real vanilla beans. And it is easier too, skipping the step of steeping the milk/cream with the beans. We did have a jar of crushed vanilla beans that I bought eons ago, so I put a tiny bit of that in the ice cream to get the flecks. I don’t always do this and it is totally optional. I also have a jar of vanilla sugar that I keep going, but that is also optional. This is the first time we have used it in our ice cream, and I’m not sure it made much of a difference in the flavor.

As an aside, making vanilla sugar is as easy as putting a split vanilla bean in a container of sugar and letting it sit for a month or so. I periodically replenish the sugar and maybe add another vanilla bean. The flavor is subtle and best for topping fruit, where you can really taste it. Mine might be stronger if I added a fresh vanilla bean more often!

But back to the ice cream – we have tinkered with the recipes that came with our ice cream maker until we came up with the recipe we like the best. We vary it for different flavors, but stick with the same ratio of half and half to sugar. We have tried various combinations of milk, cream and half and half and settled on all half and half to suit our tastes. We also prefer an ice cream without egg yolks, which also makes it a matter of simple stirring to get the mix ready for freezing, skipping the whole custard-cooking process.

Making ice cream our way takes only 30 minutes or so, and 25 of that is the responsibility of the ice cream machine. A few hours in the freezer and you have ice cream. Of course, a little homemade caramel syrup on top isn’t a bad thing, but that is another post.

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

Right out of the ice cream maker, your ice cream will be too soft to scoop. Freeze for a few hours and it will get firmer and scoopable.

2 cups half and half*
1/3 cup granulated sugar or vanilla sugar**
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground vanilla beans (optional)
Dash salt

Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until sugar is dissolved. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions – ours takes about 25 minutes.

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.
** Use ½ cup sugar for a sweeter ice cream. But try it once with less sugar and see how you like it. You can also use an equivalent amount of Splenda for sugar-free ice cream.

Download the recipe here.