The Halvah “Problem”

I’ve made no secret of my love of halvah, and how Lilli, who seems to be vying to at least place at the picky toddler championship, loves to munch on it, too. This is a known fact in my family, and so when everyone assembled for Beatrix’s baby naming, I found myself with a curious problem: a surplus of halvah.

bea in maine

She arrived, and so did a whole a mess of halvah

First, my dad brought two huge chunks of it, which he purchased at the shuk in Jerusalem. (He also brings those candied pecans, possibly my most favorite thing in the entire world. The only place I’ve located them stateside that actually taste like the Israeli version is at Russ & Daughters on the Lower East Side. A store that sells smoked fish and those pecans is my heaven on earth.)

Then my mom came to town with a bagful of food for our first week home from the hospital: salmon, pesto, asparagus, and an enormous brisket. And she brought halvah as a special treat for Lilli and me. Finally, I rescued some from Sara’s kitchen, as no one in her house enjoyed it. (Sylvie’s comment: “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand that sentence.”)

20150711_083209

Lilli practicing “gentle”

As delighted as I am that my parents clearly read my blog and have both gotten the memo about halvah, I have about three pounds of it in my kitchen right now. A fridge full of vegetables actually provided the answer for what to do about my halvah dilemma. I was on the hunt for something new to do with broccoli and was flipping through Ottolenghi’s latest, Plenty More, the sequel to his extraordinary vegetable bible, Plenty. And there they were: a recipe for halvah and walnut cake, followed by a recipe for halvah ice cream. (For those wondering what I did with the broccoli, I made Heidi Swanson’s broccoli gribeche salad from Super Natural Every Day.)

So Lilli and I grabbed our aprons — or kitchen smocks, as she calls them — and got to work on the ice cream. The cake will have to wait because it’s too darn hot to turn the oven to 400F. The result was excellent if you’re into halvah and ice cream — so, pretty much everyone.

tush

Lilli in her “kitchen smock”

This is a traditional custard-based ice cream, with heated eggs, making it safe for pregnant women. You drizzle in tahini, then add halvah at the very end of the churn. I’m including the directions for those without an ice cream maker, but honestly, do what we did five years ago, and buy one off of Craig’s List for $25. This reminds me that I was sent a no-churn ice cream cookbook which I need to take for a spin. Will report back soon.

Three small things: I couldn’t find my jar of vanilla beans, purchased for cheap in the gourmet food section at Home Goods, so I used a teaspoon of extract, as a classmate/baker once taught me to do. Two: I also didn’t have  superfine sugar, so I made some by whirling regular white sugar in the food processor. Three: place the container you’re going to freeze the ice cream in before you get going, because Ottolenghi only mentions this as you finish up the churning.

The full recipe is actually for halvah ice cream with chocolate sauce and roasted peanuts. Ottolenghi likens it to a “luxurious Snickers ice cream: sweet, nutty, and comforting. The chocolate can mask the halvah flavor a little, so better not drench it with sauce; just drizzle lightly.” Since the point here is halvah, we skipped the chocolate sauce – for now.

me as a little girl

I think Lilli is the spitting image of me as a little girl in this picture, and not because she’s chowing down on halvah ice cream

Halvah Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce and Roasted Peanuts from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups/350 ml whole milk

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped – alternatively, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg yolks

Scant 3 1/2 tsp/40g superfine sugar

2 tbsp/30 g tahini paste

3 1/2 oz/100 g halvah, cut into 1/4-inch/5-mm dice

Scant 1/2 cup/60 g salted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped (store bought are best)

1tsp black sesame seeds (or white, if available)

Chocolate sauce

2/3 cup/150 ml heavy cream

Scant 3 oz/80 g dark chocolate (70 percent cacao), finely chopped

1/2 tsp brandy

Directions

Heat the cream, milk, and vanilla bean and seeds (or teaspoon vanilla) in a saucepan over medium heat until the mixture just comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until combined. Use a ladle to spoon a little of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking the whole time. Continue with more cream mixture until it is all incorporated. Return to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon continuously for 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens to a light custard consistency. Remove from the heat and whisk in the tahini. Leave to cool for 20 minutes, then remove the vanilla bean pods if using.

Pour the custard into an ice cream machine and churn for about 35 minutes, or according to the manufacturer’s instructions (for my machine it’s about 20 minutes) until semifrozen but creamy.

Alternatively, transfer it to a freeze-proof container and place in the freezer for 4 to 5 hours, removing it every 30 to 45 minutes and beating it vigorously with a spatula or whisk to break up the frozen areas. Stir in the halvah halfway through freezing.

Remove from the machine and stir in the halvah pieces. Place in a prefrozen container and freeze. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving to let it soften.

Make the chocolate sauce just before serving. Place the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Immediately pour this over the chocolate and stir until soft and uniform. Stir in the brandy. Divide the ice cream among bowls and drizzle some warm sauce over the top. Sprinkle with peanuts and sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Turning Two

Lilli turned two on Sunday. We celebrated with cupcakes and an ice cream sundae bar at the Inside Playground down the road. Thankfully, the party was sandwiched in between two snowstorms, ensuring that the guests and grandparents from outside of Boston were still able to make it.

It’s been a while since I planned a party and I’d wanted to share how it turned out, like my friend Molly always does with her own awards show viewing parties. Of course, I forgot to snap photos of the sundae bar. Sorry about that. We bought a case of small, wide-mouthed jars from the local hardware store for a few dollars which will obviously now be used for canning things. Then I filled the jars with candies like M&Ms, chocolate chips, jelly beans, crushed Oreo cookies, and mini York Peppermint Patties. Next to the jars I placed cut up strawberries and bananas, fresh homemade whipped cream, hot fudge, salted caramel sauce, marshmallow topping and a jar of cherries.

ice cream party

Daddies were very appreciative of having a place for their toddlers to play.

After consulting with mommies at work, I decided to forgo a fancy bakery cake for Lilli and just buy some mini cupcakes from the grocery store. As it turned out, the bakery at the market couldn’t guarantee they would have enough, if any, in stock that Sunday morning, so Lilli and I donned our aprons and got to work in the kitchen. We have weekly baking projects, although most of her participation ends with me sweeping flour and sugar off the kitchen floor. Papa and Grammy got her a Kitchen Helper for Christmas which is nice because I was always a little nervous about her slipping off a dining room chair.

I was sent Hello Cupcake! years ago to review, but hadn’t found the right moment to dive into the recipes in it until I needed to bake these birthday cupcakes. If it had been a birthday party for me, I probably would have gone with the sweet potato cupcakes with cream cheese frosting or saffron cupcakes. And if nuts weren’t an issue, Lilli would have loved the Nutella cupcakes. We settled on the “Classic cupcakes” recipe, which had a nice lemony base and a cream cheese frosting.

cousins playing

The author is British and the recipe is measured in weights, so get out your kitchen scale. The recipe says it makes 12 regular-sized cupcakes, but it made 48 mini-cupcakes, more than enough for the party. The smaller cakes took about 13 minutes to bake. I think the frosting was a bit too sweet, but I think that’s because I had a little slip up with weighing out the sugar. Many of the guests thought it was divine, but that’s just my two cents.

Classic Cupcakes from Hello Cupcake! by Leila Lindholm

Ingredients

3 eggs

250 grams (9 oz) sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

100 g (3 ½ oz) butter

100 ml (3 ½ fl oz) milk

350 g (12 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 pinch salt

Grated peel and juice from 1 lemon

Cream Cheese Frosting

60 g (2 oz) softened butter

500 g (17 ½ oz) icing (confectioner’s) sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

100 g (3 ½ oz) cream cheese

Sprinkles or flowers, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 345F (175C)

Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla until white and really fluffy.

Melt the butter, add the milk and mix this into the eggs.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt and carefully fold into the other ingredients until combined.

Mix in the grated peel and juice from one lemon.

Set out paper cups in a muffin tin and fill the cups until two-thirds full with the mixture.

Bake them in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes. Once they cool a little, move them to a cooling rack to cool down.

Frosting

Mix the butter, icing sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and cream cheese until creamy.

Spread the frosting on the cakes and garnish with sprinkles or flowers.

 

Game Changer

Oh goodness. Where to begin? Well, first off, I shouldn’t be writing this right now. What I should be doing while Lilli takes her nap is tidy up the house. Or maybe crowd source the name of a cleaning lady. The house looks like an 18-month-old lives here…on her own. My friend Sara called Lilli the “tiny tornado” a few months back, and the local children’s librarian referred to her as a “little tornado” just last night.

soft serve

So the house is beyond a disaster, and no, I will not post any photos of that. Like I said, I should be cleaning the house right now, but instead I’m going to tell you about vegan ice cream sandwiches.

Before I go any further, Rich wants me to make it clear that he did not have any of the vegan ice cream sandwiches. When the book Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches by Kris Holechek Peters arrived in the mail I was excited at the prospect of a delicious and creative summertime dairy-free dessert. And Rich? Well, he made a face and declared, quite forcefully, I might add, something he has said for years: “Dairy-free ice cream is an abomination against nature.” I’ve learned to pick my battles, so I let this one slide.

When the book arrived I did what I always do with an unfamiliar cookbook – curled up into a corner on the couch and read through it. Sure, the book has the standard vanilla ice cream with chocolate cookie sandwiches, which I choose as my first recipe. But it also has Crisp Cinnamon Cookies with Chai Ice Cream, Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Mint Nut Ice Cream, and a peanut butter cup flavor, which includes a recipe for the peanut butter cups so you don’t have to run around town trying to find vegan peanut butter cups. I’m looking forward to corn in the CSA because I’ve bookmarked the Sweet Corn Ice Cream that’s been paired with Rhubarb Cookies. (The author labeled them “Mouthful O’ Midwest Sandwiches”.)

The most pleasant surprise about making this dessert was the fact that I found everything, save the soy milk and Earth Balance, at Ocean State Job Lot. (The other two ingredients were purchased at Whole Foods.) Yup, the sugar cane sugar and tapioca starch (sometime referred to as tapioca flour) were both found in the extensive Bob’s Red Mill section at the store. Now, I don’t see any reason why you can’t use regular white granulated sugar, but with baking I try to stick to the recipe before I futz with it. OSJL has a great price on all of Bob’s flours and grains, so if you’re anywhere near one, my advice is to stock up. (If you’re afraid of little creepy crawling things getting into your grains and flours, which has happened in my own pantry, I’d suggest purchasing a package of Ball Jars, conveniently on sale this month, perhaps for the summer jam and preserves crowd.)

As with any ice cream recipe, make sure to have your charger in the freezer overnight. These particular cookies are a slab cookie, although there are drop cookies galore in the book. You’ll notice the recipe has you make the sandwiches, then wrap them in plastic wrap and pop them back in the freezer for a half hour to bind them. It also suggests having the ice cream sit out for a half hour. I guess that’s typical for soy-based ice creams, although the ice cream was ready to scoop after only a few minutes out on the counter.

3 scoops

And the result? Well, at first taste the soy ice cream tasted like Tofutti, but that soy flavor diminished after a few days. The cookies were, legit, delicious — so delicious that Rich ended up eating ALL OF THE COOKIES, except for two. (He swears he thought I’d already assembled the sandwiches and the cookies were left overs.) That means I only had one ice cream sandwich when all was said and done. That’s right, he refused to eat the ice cream sandwiches, but then went and ate all the cookies. I take that as a good sign.

This ice cream sandwich was WAY BETTER than a Tofutti Cutie. For those of you out there that are looking for a Saturday lunchtime dessert that’s dairy free and delicious, this is a game changer.

Classic Ice Cream Sandwiches from Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches by Kris Holechek Peters

Classic Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients

1/3 cup nondairy margarine, at room temperature

2/3 cup evaporated can sugar

2 Tablespoons nondairy milk

¼ teaspoon mild vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa, sifted

½ teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar. Stir in the milk, vinegar, and vanilla. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix thoroughly.
  3. Turn out onto the prepared baking sheet. Place a sheet of waxed paper over the dough and roll out onto a square about ¼ inch thick. Remove the waxed paper and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are set and it’s slightly puffy. It will seem soft and not fully baked, but it is.
  4. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 15 minutes on the baking sheet on a wire rack. Carefully cut the cookies into the desired shape. You can use a glass or biscuit cutter to make them round, or maximize the dough by cutting them into evenly sized squares.
  5. Remove the cookies from the sheet and allow to finish cooling on the rack.

Vanilla Soy Ice Cream

Makes 1 ¼ quarts

Ingredients

3/4 cup evaporated cane sugar

1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons tapioca starch

2 ½ cup soy or hemp milk (full fat)

1 teaspoon coconut oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and tapioca starch and whisk until incorporated. Pour in the milk, whisking to incorporate. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently. Once it reaches a boil, lower the heat to medium-low and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the coconut oil and vanilla, and mix to combine.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a heat-resistant bowl and let cool completely.
  3. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a 1 ½ or 2-quart ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for at least 2 hours before assembling the sandwiches.

To Make the Sandwiches

Let the ice cream soften slightly so it’s easy to scoop. Place half of the cookies, bottoms up, on a clean surface. Scoop one generous scoop of ice cream, about 1/3 cup, onto the top of each cookie. Top the ice cream with the remaining cookies, with the cookie bottoms touching the ice cream. Gently press down on the cookies to level them. Wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap or waxed paper and return to the freezer for at least 30 minutes before serving.

 

(Cake) Batter Up

I know it’s only November, but I think it’s safe to say the potato salad I made for Rich’s birthday/first Father’s Day combo barbeque was the worst dish I made this year. I tried to make my mom’s famous potato salad, but I destroyed the tubers in a million different ways, from waterlogging the spuds, to peeling them before the boil. All around, a huge disaster.

Lilli Cyrus

And even though it was Rich’s super special day, I was actually more apologetic to our host, my sister-in-law, Cara. She was well into her second trimester at the time, and she is a known potato salad fiend. Is there anything worse than bringing a pregnant lady a favorite food and it to be the failure on the table?

Luckily, I had a redemption dish. When I was sent Copykat.com’s Dining Out Home Cookbook 2 by Stephanie Manley, it became obvious pretty quickly that these weren’t dishes I was ever going to order. Nearly all were meat-based, but there were two recipes that hit the Molly jackpot. The first was a recipe for Taco Bell’s bean burrito – quite possibly my favorite food when I was 17 – and the second was cake batter ice cream from Stone Cold Creamery. And, unlike many homemade ice creams out there, this one is egg free, making it safe for the pregnant ladies. Although Cara is a devotee of J.P. Licks cake batter ice cream, I took my chances and made this recipe when she and my nephew Jack visited later this summer. (You’ll recall we had the mango and eggplant noodles that you need to make right now, and this great tomato tart.)

To make sure there would be no recipe failures this time, I made two versions of the ice cream: the first with the cake batter mix the cookbook recommended, and a second using a Trader Joe’s cake batter mix. Now that I have done the dirty work for you, I can say whole-heartedly that the Duncan Hines Butter Golden Cake Mix is, in fact, the closest approximation to the cake batter ice cream you’d get at the ice cream shop. And even though I had made both ice creams for my sister-in-law to taste test and enjoy, the real victor of the day was Rich, as he came home to two almost-full containers of homemade ice cream that needed eating. I guess I kind of made up for his birthday mishap.

This past weekend we were back at my sister-in-law’s, this time to celebrate her and her husband’s birthdays. (They’re a day apart, and at this point I honestly don’t know which day is whose, just when I need to get the cards in the mail). She’s 35 weeks along now, and very much appreciated the cake batter ice cream I brought for the party.

The recipe suggests you make the mixture and refrigerate it for at least four hours, but better if it’s overnight. That works out perfectly for you, because when you put the mixture in the fridge, you can put the ice cream making unit that needs an overnight in the freezer in at the same time.

Cake Batter Ice Cream from CopyKat.com’s Dining Out at Home Cookbook 2 by Stephanie Manley

Ingredients

3 cups heavy cream, divided

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup sugar

½ cup dry Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Cake Mix

1 cup milk

Directions

In a heavy stockpot, mix 1 cup of the cream with the salt and sugar. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the sugar is completely dissolved, turn off the burner and whisk in the dry cake mix. Add the remaining 2 cups cream and milk and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a container, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to make the ice cream, remove the mixture from the refrigerator and whisk the chilled ice cream mixture well – it will be a little lumpy. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. I tend to transfer my ice cream to a container to freeze it for a few hours before serving.

Souvenirs

I work in the development department at Boston University, preparing the gift officers, deans and even the president for their fundraising trips. They travel all over the world reconnecting with alumni who are interested in supporting the school. Oftentimes, when an overseas trip is taken, someone will bring back a sweet treat from abroad. In the fall, some kind soul brought back dates from Saudi Arabia. Stuffed with tahini, sometimes nuts, and sometimes toasted sesame seeds, they were so good, I would find myself stopping by that department for an after-lunch treat. At some point, the administrators got so used to seeing me for my afternoon date that they offered the entire box to me. I couldn’t say no.

Most recently, someone went abroad and brought back a box of Turkish Delight. They actually brought the box directly to my office; saving me the daily trips. I felt a little like I was in Narnia, being plied with the candy by the White Witch, but I’m not complaining. I would end my lunch with a chewy cube of rosewater and pistachios. I was in heaven.

Luckily for me, none of my co-workers shared my delight in the Turkish Delight. I overheard a conversation between a few co-workers who did not enjoy the candies and were about the toss the half-eaten box in the garbage until I jumped up from my desk and grabbed the box from their hands.

As it happens, the recipe I have here is a pantry recipe — or at least my pantry. I scored a one pound bag of pistachios for $3 at Ocean State Job Lot months ago. Rich was skeptical as to the quantity, but they are a wonderful partner to beets, and, as any fan of Turkish Delight will tell you, rosewater. If you don’t have rosewater in the house, I strongly encourage you to head down to a Middle Eastern store in your area. I purchased mine at one of the great Armenian stores on Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown. While you’re there, definitely pick up some orange blossom water and pomegranate molasses. They’ll all be on the same shelf. All three should set you back about $10, and most recipes will only call for a teaspoon or so; you’ll get at least 25 servings from each bottle.

The rosewater is soft and muted in this dish, just a little tease of a faraway land with each nutty bite.

Turkish Delight Ice Cream

With help from the Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book and Barron’s The Joy of Ice Cream by Matthew Klein, and my  $25 ice cream maker I found on Craig’s List.

Ingredients

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

2 cups heavy or whipping cream

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon rosewater

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup pistachios, chilled in the freezer at least as long as ice cream is churning

Directions

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend. Add the vanilla extract and rosewater and stir briefly.

Transfer mixture to your ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. At 20 minutes (or about 5 minutes before the ice cream is finished churning) slowly add the cup of pistachios, about a 1/4 cup at a time. Transfer the ice cream to a container and freeze for at least two hours.

Peach-Basil Ice Cream: Want or Need?

In every language I’ve studied, I have always confused the verbs “to want” and “to need.” French, Latin or Hebrew; Roman or Semitic script, my tests would always come back with the same red marks through those verbs. Call it pathological.

So last fall, when someone brought a batch of homemade ice cream to our neighborhood potluck, I decided I NEEDED an ice cream maker. Setting myself a ridiculously low budget, and assured myself that if I could find an ice cream maker for that much, it was meant to be, I logged onto craigslist, and there it was, waiting for me: a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker, $25. And it came with two freezing chambers, which means I can keep one in the freezer at all times, in case I NEED to make ice cream.

KitchenAid makes an ice cream maker attachment for the mixer, but it's not as cheap as my craigslist find.

I’m a big fan of craigslist. I’ve found a lot of my wonderful kitchen tools there, including a fantastic Le Creuset saucier and a brand new set of All-Clad pots and pans (a wedding registry duplicate). All on craigslist, for a fraction of retail price.

I have definitely gotten my money’s worth from my ice cream maker. We’ve made the classics like mint chocolate chip and Heath Bar crunch, but the biggest hit so far has been peach-basil. I had a pile of fresh peaches at the beginning of the summer which were screaming to be made into ice cream. But I could see their destiny included an infusion of basil, as well.

Peach and basil work wonders together.

Peach-Basil Ice Cream

This recipe was adapted from Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book, which my husband bought from the B&J factory when he was a kid — even though he didn’t have an ice cream maker. Apparently the chocolate chip cookie recipe is that good.

Ingredients

2 cups finely chopped ripe peaches (about 5), peeled if you prefer (I see no need to peel, personally)

This is about the right size dice.

1 cup fresh basil, chiffonade

And this what the chiffonade should look like.

1 1/4 cups sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 large eggs

2 cups heavy or whipping cream

1 cup milk

instructions

1. Combine the peaches, basil, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the lemon juice in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, stirring the mixture every 30 minutes.

Before...

2. Remove the basil-peach mixture from the refrigerator and drain the juice into another bowl. Return the peaches and basil to the refrigerator.

...and after.

3. Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend. Add the peach-basil juice and blend.

4. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. After the ice cream stiffens (about 2 minutes before it is done), add the peaches, then continue freezing until the ice cream is ready.

Excuse the blurriness. I'm just that fast!

Makes generous 1 quart.

We freeze our ice cream in an old 1-quart peanut butter tub.

Hope you enjoy it. Our foster cat Rooster certainly did!

Nom nom nom!