Cider Donut Shortcakes

Cider Donut ShortcakesBear is many things, but a baker is not one of them. Not because he can’t manage a hand-blender or feels it might threaten his masculinity (gasp!), but because it requires patience to measure, to sift, to leaven. I stray from baking for long periods of time myself because of this need to be so precise with it. Ultimately, though, I find my way back, take a few deep breaths, run off my Italian impulsivity, and get back to leveling, weighing, and timing rises and bakes down to the minute.
Cider Donut ShortcakesThree years ago, Bear was trying to come up with a birthday cake idea for me, but was overtaken with nerves that his lack of patience would win out and he’d wind up with a failed dessert. I was serious when I said he could just buy a box of donuts, but he was suspicious of being let off the hook that easily. Creativity was quick to strike, though, and on my 32nd birthday, the strawberry donut shortcake was born – a fluffy, glazed donut split in half and filled with wine-macerated berries and homemade whipped cream. Is that Bear a catch, or what? It’s such a special, over-the-top treat, that I’ve requested it for birthdays 33 and 34, as well.
Cider Donut ShortcakesBut once a year seems so long to wait for a donut-turned-layered-cake dessert, doesn’t it? Who wants to wait for a whole rotation around the sun to gently saw through a pillowy donut and stuff it with cream and fruit? What of the many seasonal varieties of treats that could be made in such a similar fashion?

Cider Donut ShortcakesThat’s how we got here, folks, to Cider Donut Shortcakes – your newest, easiest Fall dessert to have on hand for any day of the week from September through November. Do you know how people squee for these? The excitement of the donut itself – cakey in texture, but crisp with its cinnamon and sugar sprinkle – surrounding a giant ball of vanilla ice cream that’s slowly melting beneath a syrup of sauteed apples with cinnamon and cardamom? Your loved ones will lose their minds – and you won’t have to measure anything more than a little sugar and a little spice to pull your apples together! Try these soon before cider donut season wraps up and let me know what other varieties these shortcakes might inspire in you – I’m all ears!

Cider Donut Shortcakes
Yields two apple cider donut shortcakes

Ingredients
2 cider donuts
1 pint of vanilla ice cream
2 granny smith apples, skinned & cored, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of apple cider (apple juice or water would work fine too)
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of cardamom
Pinch of salt

Directions
Slice the donuts in half from side-to-side and set aside. In a sauce pan, melt butter on medium-low while slicing apples. Allow to brown gently and when bubbles cover the surface of the butter, add in the brown sugar, apples, salt, and spices. Raise the heat to medium and sautee for 2-3 minutes. Add in the apple cider and stir to combine, then allow to cook for an additional 5-7 minutes, stirring only occasionally. The apples should become fairly soft, but not mushy, and the liquid should thicken into a syrupy consistency. It will become more dense as it cools. Remove from heat as you scoop two, rounded mounds of ice cream and place on the bottom half of the donut. Flatten the top just enough for it to hold some apples as you spoon them onto the top of each ice cream ball. Be liberal with both the apples and the syrup. Place the other donut half on top and serve immediately.

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame Brittle Swirl

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame BrittleMy teaching load is pretty heavy this semester, so I’m doing much less of all of the things I love – spending time with friends, cooking, making things with my hands, blogging, and the list goes on. Still, it’s good work, a paycheck, and it makes me really present when I am able to put time into things I enjoy. Last week, in the middle of a major tech glitch in one of my online courses, a student meltdown over confronting their own homophobia, and the realization that I had scheduled papers due in all of my classes on the same day, I quit. I closed my school’s loaner laptop for the first time in four straight days, shut my desktop off for a few hours, and just thought about what I wanted to do with my sudden window of freedom…ahem, I mean self-care!

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame BrittleI’ve been knocking around the idea of making Thai iced tea ice cream since last summer when I saw someone’s photos on Pinterest of it. Big, round globes of soft orange ice cream, piled on top of a waffle cone – I already knew what it must taste like! As the thought stayed in the back of my mind, though, I’ve continually thought about what I could add to give it a different spin or add some texture. When it comes to ice cream, I’m usually a purist, but I saw so much potential here for doing a little more. I had a clear winner in mind, but when I went to my pantry in order to get some serenity last week, the cans of coconut milk I thought I’d find there were nowhere to be found. Did someone make a delicious curry while I wasn’t looking? Who’s to say? But with that idea down the drain, my eyes fell on a bag of sesame seeds I had bought a few months back wanting to make one of my favorite candies of all time – sesame brittle.

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame BrittleLike magic, the two ideas melded and it was just the undertaking I was up for – multi-stepped so that I could successfully avoid work and give myself the break I needed and yet not so cumbersome that I’d be sorry I started halfway through. For someone not looking to cook the day away, you might want to split this up over two days, making the brittle and the ice cream base on the first day and churning and assembling the ice cream on the second. When I have the time, I prefer to make ice creams over two days anyhow because it allows the base to get really, really cold in the refrigerator overnight so that it churns faster and gets thicker once you introduce it to the machine.

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame BrittleSince I wanted to start and finish this ice cream on the same day, I began with the base and then put it in the back, coldest corner of my fridge and let it sit there for several hours while I made the brittle, allowed it to cool, and broke it up. Breaking the brittle to the point where it is about the consistency of store-packaged toffee chips is a tough job (so is not eating all of it before you crush it), but I relied on a trusted, vintage ice crusher to do the job. You’d have just as much success putting the brittle into a bag and crushing it with a rolling pin, of course.

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame BrittleThe brittle itself is nutty from the toasted sesame seeds and then sweet and caramelized from the honey. I add a little cinnamon and a little cardamom to add a some extra warmth and spice, but you can leave those out if you don’t have them on hand. The brittle is, obviously, great in ice cream, but it’s also perfect on its own. I was so bananas over it that I plan on making a bunch at Christmas and handing it out with cards. Here’s where I’d go into detail about how I accidentally semi-burnt a batch, but nibbled at it until it was suddenly gone anyway because it was sugar and butter and honey and, thus, still delicious.

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame BrittleIt adds a great crunch and texture to the ice cream, which tastes, as you might imagine, just like Thai iced tea, but creamier. The flavor of the tea is really pronounced, but that’s what I love about this recipe. If it seems too strong to you the first time you make, go a bit lighter on the steeping time and that should help. Without the brittle, I’d worry about the tea flavor being a little overwhelming and the base not sweet enough, so keep that in mind if you decide to make this sans brittle; you may want to increase the sugar and/or decrease the steeping time.

Such a beautiful, delicious dessert and one that is definitely worth the time spent. When chaos, inevitably, strikes this week, at least I’ll still have some ice cream to get me through. It wound up being just the thing to take my mind off classses and allowed me to enjoy being back in the kitchen with just an idea and some time on my hands.

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame Brittle
Yields about a pint & a half

For the Brittle
 (adapted slightly from here)
Ingredients:
3/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of honey
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of ground cardamom
1 Tbsp water
1 cup raw sesame seeds
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of butter
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

Directions:
In a heavy-bottomed pot, add the sugar, honey, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and water and stir to combine over medium heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally, then stir in the raw sesame seeds. Cook the mixture, stirring often, until it turns an amber color. This can occur anywhere between 5-10 minutes and it is very important you not only keep watch for the color to change, but that you also use your sense of scent. When you can smell the sugar caramelizing and the sesame seeds toasting, check on the color and wait until it reaches a rich medium brown. If you have a candy thermometer, the temp should be around 300°F. Once the sesame mixture has reached the desired color and temperature, remove the pan from the heat. Immediately stir in the vanilla extract and butter. Once the latter has completely melted, stir in the baking soda. This will cause the mixture to foam up a bit, but don’t be alarmed. As you stir, and as it settles down, the foam will subside. Pour sesame mixture onto a baking sheet that has been lined with a silpat or parchment paper. For the ice cream, I like to spread it out a bit so that the brittle is about 1/8″ thick or even less. If I was serving it on its own, I’d spread it to about 1/4″ thickness. Once the brittle has completely cooled and hardened (about 25 minutes), break it into pieces and enjoy or grind it up for use in ice cream.

For the Ice Cream
Ingredients:
1/2 cup of Thai tea leaves – I used these
1-1/2 cups of whole milk
2 cups of heavy cream
1-1/2 cups of sugar
3 large eggs

Directions:
Consult your ice cream machine’s directions and plan ahead to freeze the insert if necessary. In a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the milk and 1 cup of the heavy cream. As small bubbles form around the edges, pour in the tea leaves and stir gently for about three minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to sit and cool for about 20 minutes so that the tea leaves steep into the mixture. While this is cooling, measure the sugar into a medium mixing bowl and add the three egg yolks. Beat with a whisk until the mixture is a pale yellow and the texture is almost like a paste. In a separate heavy-bottom saucepan, add the remaining cup of heavy cream and allow to warm over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Bubbles around the edge will form indicating it is getting hot. When this occurs, pour in the egg and sugar mixture and mix thoroughly until combined. Turn the heat down to medium and stir the mixture gently, but consistently, for about 10 minutes. You’re creating a custard here and while this isn’t difficult, your attention is key in making sure it doesn’t cook too far, or get too hot too quickly, creating a curdled texture. As the heat rises, the mixture will thicken into a custard. As soon as you sense this happening, remove the pot from the heat and continue to stir for a bit as it begins to cool down.

After about 15 minutes, strain the custard through a wire sieve in order to remove clumps which may have formed during the custard-making face. Place in the refrigerator to cool down while you continue with the recipe. Take your pot of Thai tea and strain it. Allow this to cool as well. When both mixtures are cooled, combine thoroughly and then keep in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before churning. When the Thai iced tea base is completely cold, pour it into your ice cream machine and allow it to process according to the manufacturer’s directions. In the final five minutes of processing, shake in about a cup of the sesame brittle crumbles and allow the machine to stir them in. When the ice cream has finished churning, transfer to a freezer-proof container and store.

 

Guinness Fudgesicles

Guinness Fudgesicles[Note: I made these fudgesicles and wrote this post last week when we received another 6 or so inches of snow. I’m pleased to report that, mere days later, I’m publishing it with the promise of it reaching 70°F today! Welcome back, Spring! Please be here to stay. My sun dresses have missed you!]

I can’t believe I have to write a post about ice cream while the snow is falling outside with abandon and several inches are already under foot with more to come. Scratch that. I can believe it because I just remembered recently that on the first week of May last year, I wrote and told you all about the coconut ice cream with graham cracker swirl I was making amidst a blizzard. Oh, Minnesota, never change!

Guinness Fudgesicles are the perfect treat for those among us who love a rich, chocolatey dessert, but one that is punched up a bit by the bitter creaminess of a good stout beer. They are everything you remember about fudgesicles as a kid, but upgraded a bit because we’re all adults here and deserve a little something sophisticated with our desserts from time-to-time.

Guinness FudgesiclesIt might seem, upon first glance, that there’s not a lot to these, but in a way, that’s what makes them perfect. They’re not loaded up with a lot of superfluous ingredients, nor do they require a lot of technique. There’s just a bit of melting, some whisking, a pour or eight and they’re off to set up in the frozen recesses of your freezer. For full disclosure, if you have to go and buy a bag of chocolate chips to make these, or a bottle of Guinness, you’re going to have some leftovers.

Sorry about that not-a-problem. I have faith that you can handle it.

Guinness Fudgesicles
Yields 8 2.5oz pops

Ingredients
1 cup of milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 Tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup + 1Tablespoon of Guinness, divided
1 Tablespoon of cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 cup of half and half
1/2 cup of 2% or whole milk
1 Tablespoon of butter

Directions
In a small, heavy-bottomed pot melt the chocolate chips over low heat. While waiting for them to melt, prepare the other ingredients, checking on the chocolate every minute or so to avoid burning. When the chips have melted, add the half and half, milk, salt, cocoa powder, sugar, cornstarch, and 1/3 cup of Guinness. Stir to combine. Raise the heat to medium and cook for 5-10 minutes or until it begins to thicken. You may want to switch out your spoon for a whisk in order to make sure your mixture is free of any lumps. When it has thickened slightly, remove from the heat and add the butter. Stir in and allow to melt fully, incorporating it completely. At this point, taste the chocolate and see if the taste of the Guinness suits you. I wanted a little extra oomph, so I added 1 Tablespoon after cooking and the Guinness flavor really blossomed.

Pour mixture into 8 popsicle molds and freeze for 30 minutes. Then, insert the popsicle sticks and allow to continue freezing until they are solid. Before serving, you may need to dip your molds in warm water to loosen them. If they seem a little too soft after this process, lay them gently on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and return to freezer for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Coconut Ice Cream with Graham Cracker Crust Swirl

Do I have to do much more than type out the title of this post and upload a photo? Because I think the words themselves – take them in again, why don’t you? Coconut. Ice. Cream. Graham. Cracker. Crust. Swirl. – and the pictures seem convincing enough. On their own, they beckon, no?

I’ve already professed my love for coconut here, but truth be told, I might love graham cracker pie crust even more. The blending of the cracker with sugar and butter satisfies my salty/sweet cravings in a big way. It also doesn’t hurt that it usually serves as the foundation for heavy, decadent fillings, like mousses, custards, and puddings!

Here, though, I mixed and baked a graham cracker crust as I normally would for a cheesecake or a key lime pie and, once it was cooled, I swirled it into the ice cream. Yum! Let me tell you about this ice cream, friends. It’s a simple recipe in that it doesn’t require a custard preparation on the stove first – though, truth be told, when making ice cream from scratch, I do find custard-based recipes to have the most familiar consistency. This coconut ice cream gets it’s very creamy texture, however, from a can of sweetened condensed milk which, when blended with half & half and a can of coconut milk, achieves the perfect amount of fresh coconut flavor.

This flavor is only enhanced by the addition of sweetened, shredded coconut in it’s straight-from-the-bag form, as well as from the toasted variety. The former adds the extra boost of coconut flavor needed to really distinguish it as a coconut ice cream and the toasted bits provide a deep, caramelized note in addition to another layer of texture. Not to mention the intense aroma it gives the ice cream! Even after sitting in the freezer for days (should you have the restraint to allow such a thing), removing the top of the container offers up the most heady scents of coconut done three ways, accompanied by the layers of crumbled graham cracker crust throughout. Unf.

Any more reading here is just time taken away from digging out your ice cream maker and getting to work! This ice cream would be great during a summer barbecue, served on top of a blueberry pie, or made the star of your Mother’s Day table. You could even add a scoop to your morning smoothie if you wanted! Heck, I’m not going to judge you.

Coconut Ice Cream with Graham Cracker Swirl
Makes approximately 2 quarts

Ingredients:
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 14-ounce can of coconut milk (not cream of coconut)
1-1/2 cups of half and half
1 teaspoon of vanilla extra
Dash of salt
1-1/4 cups of sweetened, shredded coconut flakes, divided
1 cup of graham cracker crumbs
1 Tablespoon of sugar
4 Tablespoons of salted butter, melted

Directions:
Note: Before beginning this recipe, read your owner’s manual to your ice cream machine, so that you know how best to plan ahead. My ice cream machine, for example, requires you to freeze an insert solid – usually 24 hours – before churning. I’ve also learned with use that I get the best results if the mixture I’m planning to pour into the machine is very cold. I like to keep it in my refrigerator overnight before churning.

In a small frying pan, over medium heat, sprinkle 1/2 cup of sweetened flake coconut evenly and allow to brown. You will need to keep a close eye on it and should stir it every two minutes or so until it is complete. Allow to cool. With a handmixer, blend the sweetened condensed milk, half & half, coconut milk, salt & vanilla together until smooth in a medium-sized bowl. Incorporate the toasted coconut and the remaining 3/4 cups of sweetened coconut flakes. Mix well, cover, and store in the refrigerator until the liquid is very cold. This is where I usually let it sit overnight for maximum coldness.

On the day you will finish the ice cream, prepare and bake your graham cracker crust. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter until combined. Press into the bottom of a 8-inch by 8-inch pan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until browned. Allow to cool.
Remove the ice cream mixture from the refrigerator and give it a good stir before pouring into your machine and making according to the manual’s instructions. While ice cream is churning, break graham cracker crust into bits and pieces. Once ice cream is complete (it may be a very soft consistency, but it should not be liquid), scoop some into the container you will store it in and spread it out. Follow with a layer of graham cracker crust crumbs and then another layer of ice cream. Repeat until neither remains. With the end of a wooden spoon, swirl the layers together. Affix lid and freeze until frozen.