Blackberry frozen kefir

I keep thinking I’d like to take up embroidery (in the style of Judi Dench), because it seems like such a normal hobby to have. And because gut bacteria is starting to seem like a weird thing to dwell on and Nick thinks that “healthy poops for the whole world” is not a hobby, but the kind of thing I should talk to a mental health professional about. I think Nick is ungrateful.

Yes. Embroidery. That seems like something I could talk to people about. Because right now, I’m talking a lot about kefir and lacto-fermentation and gut flora and getting a lot more side-eye than even I’m used to. Every day, it seems, some study out of somewhere implicates intestinal bacteria in some seemingly unconnected disease or disorder, demonstrating that the relationship between our health and what we eat is increasingly complex.

A lot of nutrition information tries to sum up healthy eating in a few easily digestible tips and tricks. (Wink.) This is, I think, where phenomena like “super foods” come from – the idea that optimal nutrition is based on a simple formula, and if you just eat a carefully selected limited number of things, you will live forever. That’s a nice idea, and I can see why people are into it. Unfortunately, there is no simple one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition. Your best shot at a healthy diet is a diet that includes a little bit of everything and nothing to excess. Which is great, because I don’t think I could live a lifestyle that excluded a reasonable amount of Taco Bell.

Our weird health kick is kefir, which I make because making yogurt involves too many steps. You just fill a jar with some kefir grains and milk, then strain off the grains and start all over again with new milk, either refrigerating the kefir for consumption or secondarily fermenting it with citrus peels for even better taste. We drink kefir because it makes our bellies feel nice and because it’s easily blended into things I can drink for breakfast, since I’m bad at wanting or remembering to eat breakfast. Some kefir and some frozen berries blended and poured into a tall glass is something I can consume in a rush while doing ten other things.

Kefir

Kefir and yogurt are both full of good bacteria, but kefir contains roughly three times the amount of probiotic cultures. Whether that matters for long term health is unclear, but in the short term, it can be helpful; this week Toddler’s had an ear infection, and the amoxicillin the doctor prescribed can be hard on little bodies. The pharmacist’s advice was to load Toddler up with probiotics, either in the form of yogurt or supplements. And so, the kefir was useful once again.

Of course, he was unlikely to take a shot of kefir … especially not when the amoxicillin was bubblegum flavoured. So we came up with this frozen yogurt/sorbet-like thing, and he declared “it’s perfect, mum!” and ate enough to keep his little gut happy.

Maybe embroidery would be more socially acceptable. But probiotic ice cream is worth telling people about. Healthy poops for the whole world, indeed!

If you make kefir, let it ferment twice. To do this, make the kefir first, then strain out the kefir grains and let the kefir continue to sit at room temperature for an additional 24 hours, either as it is or with a strip of orange or lemon peel.

You can buy kefir grains online, or at some natural health food stores. In Vancouver, you can get them at Homesteader’s Emporium. Or, if you’re lucky, you know my friend Grace and can get them for free after a lengthy conversation about your microbiome at dinner. (I’m a bit much to be around.)

Blackberry frozen kefir

  • 2 cups twice fermented kefir, store-bought plain kefir or plain 2% yogurt
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen (and defrosted) blackberries, mashed and then passed through a fine mesh sieve
  • 2/3 cup honey or cane sugar syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Whisk kefir, blackberries, honey, and vanilla in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, then process through an ice cream machine as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Freeze for at least one hour before serving. If freezing for more than four hours, let the dessert sit on the counter for ten minutes before serving.

Serve with an additional drizzle of honey, if desired.

Blackberry frozen kefir

Something to Read: The Perfect Scoop

30days

Well, I did it. I had my teeth out, and it sucked and apparently I cried. I think I only heard the “sedation” part when I attended my consultation with the surgeon; I did not hear the part about consciousness.

‘It will be like you have had a few too many glasses of wine, Ms. Wight,” they said.

“I have a few too many glasses of wine often enough to know that won’t be sufficient for this procedure,” I said. And then they stabbed a needle into my forearm and took out my teeth and weren’t delicate about it.

And to top if off, they gave me what amounts to strong ibuprofen as part of my recovery goodie bag. It may not need to be said, but I’m not great with pain. I am, in fact, one of the worst whiners in the history of the world and if something serious and prolonged ever afflicts me, I think Nick will take me to an amoral veterinarian and have me put down. I wouldn’t blame him for it either.

So, I have spent the majority of the day in and out of sleep and in and out of gallons of ice cream. Nick, kind man that he is, spent what would ordinarily be our bi-weekly daycare lunches budget on peanut butter-chocolate Häagen-Dazs ice cream and then bought me a Blizzard for dinner. I will not have Nick put down, as he provides a level of service I do not deserve and would not find anywhere else. It may be worth injuring him to prevent him from leaving.

DQ

Anyway, I am swollen and pained and eating thousands of calories of frozen dairy and while I have many complaints I’ll have to admit that from where I sit, I have it pretty good. My parents took Toddler overnight, and I am sitting around in my old maternity clothes and some Pajama Jeans while Nick queues up all my favourite bad movies.

This has been a lot of preamble and I meant to tell you about a book. So, The Perfect Scoop.

PerfectScoop

I think everyone who bakes probably knows about David Lebovitz by now, and if you don’t I won’t bore you with a lot of background which you can easily discover on his eponymous and highly regarded blog. He is very good at what he does.

I have made a great many of his recipes over the past few years, and his basic vanilla ice cream recipe has come to be the base upon which I build almost every ice cream I make. I’ve made it so many times I don’t even need the book anymore; it’s committed to my memory which means that it is something important, and that it probably pushed something I might have really needed out.

In my current (pathetic) state I have been longing for a bite of his salted butter caramel ice cream, which is as close as you’ll get in North America to the salted butter caramel ice cream at Berthillon in Paris, which everyone must experience at least once in their life even if you have to sell an organ to get there. Do you need a kidney? I’d very much like to go back.

perfectscoopberthillon

The ice cream in question is sweet – but not too sweet – and slightly bitter, as the caramel is slightly over-cooked, so that it has just a whisper of burnt taste. If you’re wary, trust me; it’s perfect. To have some right now …

The cookbook has a lot in it that’s useful; I’ve even made his vegan ice cream recipe and found it delightful (I used coconut milk in place of rice milk, as it’s what I had). If you like making ice cream, or if you have an ice cream maker and are looking for an excuse to put it to use, The Perfect Scoop is an invaluable resource, and I think you’ll really love it.

My face hurts, and I’m too lazy to type out David’s recipe … fortunately it already exists on his blog. Go to it. Make it. Mail me some?

We’ll be back on track tomorrow, I hope. Think anti-inflammatory thoughts for me, will you? I’ve got to go pass out in an ice cream coma.

photo (4)

 

Roasted strawberry ice cream.

Roasted berries.

I dated someone once who didn’t care about restaurants or going out to dinner, who just didn’t get it. “Food is just fuel,” he’d say, and he wasn’t attractive or funny enough for me to overlook his dim worldview so it didn’t last long. I suppose that food really is fuel, but in my case it also doubles as therapy; my mood depends on a few good meals, and my optimism wavers if I haven’t eaten well. And anyway, sleep is just recharging but aren’t we nonetheless very particular about the softness of our pillows and the colour of our sheets? How can there be people for whom these constant, vital acts aren’t anything but to-dos to be checked off a list? Or maybe I’m just a hedonist?

I’m also a chaos muppet:

“Chaos Muppets are out-of-control, emotional, volatile. They tend toward the blue and fuzzy. They make their way through life in a swirling maelstrom of food crumbs, small flaming objects, and the letter C. Cookie Monster, Ernie, Grover, Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and—paradigmatically—Animal, are all Chaos Muppets. Zelda Fitzgerald was a Chaos Muppet. So, I must tell you, is Justice Stephen Breyer.” – Dahlia Lithwick, Slate (2012)

Roasted.

Swirling maelstroms are the status quo around here; adding a toddler to the mix has not brought any order to our daily proceedings. As a grounding exercise, just before everything becomes completely unhinged (and someone innocent gets hit in the eye with the  nuts and bolts), I sometimes must do something stabilizing – usually that’s some fancy food thing that requires patience and presence of mind. On Sunday, that stabilizing thing was the slow work of transforming eggs and the strawberries that had gone ruddy and cream into ice cream, a process that began with custard-making.

Ruddy strawberries.

Custard requires focus; failing to pay attention can turn your emulsion into sweet scrambled eggs and this recipe calls for eight egg yolks, so spoiling your custard means quite a lot of waste and probably another trip to the store and I was not wearing outside-pants because it was the weekend. You have to monitor the heat, and you have to keep stirring until the mixture thickens to the point where it coats the back of a spoon and hangs on. It is not complicated, but it does require you to fixate on the task at hand.

The custard formed the base for a bit of strawberry ice cream. When I started making ice cream I played with a few different recipes, but the one I ended up sticking with is David Lebovitz’s perfect vanilla ice cream. It is endlessly adaptable, and even if you don’t really know what you’re doing at first, you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

To make this ice cream, I tweaked his recipe; I used eight egg yolks instead of five, and I used a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste instead of a vanilla bean pod plus extract. If you just have a vanilla bean, or just extract, that’s fine; my vanilla bean paste is a splurge that my aunt got me hooked on when she brought a jar of it back for me from London; I found it at Gourmet Warehouse in Vancouver ($12), but you can also find it online. I will never not have it in my cupboard.

Vanilla bean paste.

To make this strawberry ice cream and not just plain old vanilla, I roasted strawberries drizzled with honey, and poured the whole mess into the ice cream machine as it churned. This is not the simplest of recipes, though it is not hard. But you have to pay attention.

Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream

(Makes just a bit more than a quart.)

  • 1 lb. strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract

Put a large glass or stainless steel bowl into the freezer. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Line an 8″x8″ baking pan with parchment. Put the strawberries into the pan, drizzle with honey, toss with a spoon to coat, then stick the pan into the oven and roast the berries for 25 to 30 minutes, until they have melted down and their juices are sticky and bubbling. Cool the berries at room temperature until you can handle the pan comfortably with bare hands, then stick them in the fridge to chill.

In a saucepan over low heat, dissolve the sugar and salt in the milk.

Take the bowl out of the freezer, pour the cream into it, and set a fine mesh strainer over top. Unfortunately, Nick threw my fine mesh strainer out in a fit over how annoying it was to clean before we had a dishwasher, so I only have a very small one; its diameter is just slightly shorter than that of the mug I drink my tea out of. It’s slow going, but worthwhile.

In a separate bowl, whisk your egg yolks together with the vanilla. Slowly and gently pour the warm milk mixture – in a thin stream – into your bowl of egg yolks. Whisk constantly. Once you’ve poured your whole pot of milk into the egg bowl, pour the mixture back into the pot, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula so you get all the good stuff, and return the pot to the heat (should still be low). Whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened to the point where it coats the back of a spoon and stays put, which should take somewhere between ten and twelve minutes (if you’re meticulous, that’s 170°F).

Remove the custard from the heat and strain it into the bowl of cream, stirring to combine. Cover with plastic wrap, and then stick it in the fridge, minimum four hours but ideally overnight.

Pour the custard into your ice cream maker, add the strawberries, and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze until set.

Serve with fresh strawberries.

Bad lighting, good ice cream.

Kiwi sorbet.

kiwi

The reason I find bananas so abhorrent is mainly because a banana in a lunch bag crammed into a steamy coat closet in an elementary school classroom will not only infect every other piece of food in the bag with its noxious banananess, but it will permeate your insulated plastic lunch bag as well, making every meal you ever eat out of it taste like aged overripe banana. Forever. If it happens enough, that kind of thing can scar you for life. Even now, when I give the baby a banana the smell of it on his cheeks and his breath repels me.

Until recently, I couldn’t think of anything more offensive than perfectly good peanut butter cookies destroyed by banana-stink. And then, after she complained about pantry moths in one of those water-cooler conversations, someone left the person I share an office with a big bag of mothballs. My office-mate was out sick, so the mothballs sat in our office for a full 24 hours before I thought to hang them out the window until she could take them home.

I taste mothballs in the back of my throat when I swallow. I can smell them in my sinuses when I breathe through my nose. It’s been five days.

Bananas, you are demoted. Mothballs are the new very worst.

Almost all of the very best things are delicate and perishable. Almost nothing wonderful will leave its mark forever on your tongue or in your lunchbag. A peach bruises and turns to mush when you’re not looking; a bottle of wine smashes on the sidewalk when the bottom of your piece-of-crap reusable shopping bag gives out. Asparagus wrinkles and turns into slime if forgotten in the crisper. If you are lucky you will never know the feel of a rotten potato squishing through your fingers. Cheese gets moldy, bread goes stale and grapes become raisins, which is possibly the cruelest fate of all. Somehow, though, kiwis are hardy.

Kiwis, if stored somewhere cool and dark, will last for months. I didn’t know this until recently, when I happened upon a kiwi farmer at our local Farmer’s Market one rainy Saturday. I also didn’t know until recently that kiwi fruit grows quite happily here on the wet west coast. And apparently, kiwi fruit makes excellent jam.

Skinned kiwis.

So I bought an inordinate amount of kiwi fruit, as you do. And then I didn’t know what to do with it, and the baby likes bananas so what does he know about anything, so it sat in my crisper for three weeks as I waited for an epiphany and an opportunity and then it happened. Brunch! And friends! So I made the best thing you can make out of kiwi fruit after just cutting it in half and eating it with a spoon.

Friends plus babies plus sorbet.

 

All I need now is to know how to clean the taste of mothballs out of my inner face. I’ll take any suggestion.

Kiwi sorbet

(Serves 6)

  • 1 lb. peeled, chopped kiwi fruit (10 or 12 medium-sized kiwis)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Zest and juice of one lime (about 1 tbsp. juice)

Whiz kiwi fruit in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Combine salt, sugar, water, zest and juice in a pot and bring to a gentle boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the sugar has completely dissolved, pour into the bowl with your kiwi purée, and chill in the fridge for at least six hours, or overnight.

Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, then pour into a bowl, cover with plastic, and freeze until you’re ready to serve it.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can turn this into a granita by pouring it into a 9″x13″ pan and scraping it every 30 to 60 minutes with a fork until frozen and fluffy. Or, you can mostly freeze it in a 9″x13″ pan, chip it out into a food processor, and blend until it resembles sorbet.

Serve cold, obviously.

Green treat: Kiwi sorbet.

Nothing says “I love you” like a freezer full of meat. This is a post about ice cream.

Admittedly, I am quite terrible when it comes to romance. I giggle at all the serious parts, and when it gets really uncomfortable romantic, I can’t help but make a hilarious fart joke or something equally awesome juvenile. At my wedding, to break up all the awkward love/forever stuff, I made Nick give me a high-five right before the kiss part. I like to think that romantic overtures are his job, because he’s no good at it either, so when he fails I can cry and say it’s all his fault that we don’t sparkle. And then I throw up a little in my mouth.

But Nick has been away for three days, and he won’t be back until late this evening. And he won’t be all that hungry, but it’s been hot out. And our patio is quite lovely, and I thought that a little bit of ice cream would be very nice, maybe with a small aperitif or the fruity bottle of wine I bought yesterday. And raspberries are starting to be reasonable again, and I love them. So even though Nick doesn’t really like raspberries or even care about ice cream, he does inexplicably like me, so in the interest of a little quiet time and catching up, and in a half-assed jab at romance, I decided to make ice cream. With raspberries. But I added alcohol, so at least there’s a small chance he’ll be impressed. And whatever. He won’t eat much anyway, so I might as well make something I like.

I don’t have a churn or anything, and I do have the Cuisinart soft-serve machine but I haven’t had all that much success with it. But several years ago, I took a French cooking class where I learned how to make an easy stove-top ice cream, or “frozen souffle”, and this has proven to be very useful, especially when I want to be impressive but only feel like giving 60 or so percent. Which is pretty much always.

I’ve given the recipe from the class, though for my own purposes, I’ve adapted the recipe a bit, as the original recipe was for a frozen Grand Marnier souffle (and I only had Amaretto), and it didn’t contain any fruit. Also, I’ve found that the fruit falls to the bottom of this, so instead of putting it in ramekins, I put it into a large bowl and scoop it out once it’s frozen so I can control the fruit : cream ratio a bit better. Don’t bother adding the fruit, though – use it as a topping. MUCH easier to deal with later on: Because the fruit separates and I have the coldest freezer ever, the raspberries created a difficult (if delicious) ice shelf that I had to stab hard (several angry times) in order to penetrate it with a spoon. Mash up the fruit or make a sauce out of it. Way better.

Frozen Grand Marnier Souffle

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup Grand Marnier (or Amaretto, or whatever you like … I am going to try this with Irish whiskey and dark, juicy cherries once the right kind of cherries start popping up at roadside stands)
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1 1/4 cups chilled whipping cream

Whisk first four ingredients in a medium bowl. Make sure the bowl will fit nicely over a saucepan. Place the bowl atop the pan, which will contain simmering water, of which there will not be so much that it touches the bottom of the bowl. Whisk this over medium heat for about ten minutes.

Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Once the mixture on the stove is finished, fold it into the cream. Pour out into four ramekins, or, if you’re like me, a large bowl. Refrigerate for four hours before serving.

The recipe I have insists that you place the mixture into four ramekins fitted with aluminum foil “collars” – strips of foil around the inside, about six inches wide and folded lengthwise in half. As you may have noticed, I’m pretty lazy. I always skip that step, and it doesn’t seem to matter.

For some reason, I could not take a decent picture of these. The only way it would look half-okay was to take the picture on the floor, which I kind of swept with my hand before taking the picture. So my floor is kind of dirty. But it always is, because I never look down there.
For some reason, I could not take a decent picture of these. The only way it would look half-okay was to take the picture on the floor, which I kind of swept with my hand before taking the picture. So my floor is kind of dirty. But it always is, because I never look down there.

And so? Well, Nick was okay with the ice cream. He ate it, and that’s something, and he even said it was good, and he doesn’t usually lie to me. But instead of a heartfelt outpouring of his “I missed you, wife”-feelings, he was more, “oh, wow – you bought a lot of meat this weekend. I love meat!” and then he grabbed my boob. Which I took to mean, “you are the wind beneath my wings and also SUPER HOT – let’s go buy you a puppy.” I did buy a lot of meat this weekend, as we had finally run through the last of the previous meat haul, which I had bought well over two months ago. And he caught nine trout (did I mention Nick was fishing? Nick was fishing), so we have a whole bunch of plastic-wrapped fish carcasses (carcassi?) in a bag in the freezer.

My fridge looks like this but with vegetables, but no one cares about that around here but me.
My fridge looks like this but with vegetables, but no one cares about that around here but me.

I probably could have skipped the ice cream and just made him a meat sandwich. But you know that I really made the ice cream for me. And romance? I don’t really have a tidy conclusion to that topic. Maybe one day we’ll figure that one out. Or we’ll have affairs. But as long as our wine fridge and our meat freezer are stocked, I’m sure we’ll find ways to endure one another in the meantime.