Roasted Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

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There are actually no words for how much I love homemade ice cream. Like, it's the most magical experience from boiling the cream to scooping it into the bowl. I love everything about it, and it has completely ruined store-bought ice cream forever. Every year for my birthday (and also, just like, when I feel like I need it), I buy myself a present. Birthdays are pretty personal, and who better to celebrate with than yourself? Well, for year 24 (which feels like thousands of years ago, by the way), I decided to take the plunge and give myself an ice cream maker. Two days later my lil guy arrived on my doorstep, and we've been happily in love, making ice cream ever since.

Every summer I've managed to take on at least two ice cream projects before the leaves start turning and the fall scarves come out of storage (omg just typing this makes me want to get to fall so badly...), but I've always just found recipes in books or on the internet to try. This summer, I realized that I could just as easily start developing my own recipes for a dairy cream dream. So I started to think about the types of things I enjoy: quirky flavors, varying textures, and a great mouthfeel. Oh, and if i can throw jam (my favorite thing) in the mix, well then, we're doing well. SO, Roasted Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream was born!

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Have you ever roasted strawberries in the oven? If not, YOU ARE MISSING OUT, MY FRIEND. My mind is blown; I've been making jam on the stove when I could've just thrown my strawberries in the oven this whole time. Here's the difference between the stove and the oven: in the oven, you can get a nice, consistent, even heat that gets into those strawberries and gives them that warm, slightly smoky flavor that only hot, hot heat can give them. Roasting your strawberries gives them a more concentrated flavor, and warmth and depth of sweetness that you just can't get any other way. I'm telling ya, it's completely changed the way I'm making jam from now on.

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My favorite part about this ice cream is the creaminess, which absolutely comes from the cream cheese found in the ice cream base. I was very conscious about how I wanted this ice cream to be presented in the mouth. I wanted the dairy to hit the tongue first, then the sweetness of the jam, then finally the wonderful crunchiness and slight saltiness of the graham cracker found both in the ice cream, and as a sprinkling on top, which cuts through some of the sweetness and balances everything out. Did I eat the majority of this ice cream over the span of a week all by myself? Yes. Mission accomplished.

ROASTED STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE ICE CREAM

What You’ll Need

Roasted Strawberry Jam:

  • 4 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1 cup sugar
  • juice of one lime
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Graham Cracker Topping:

  • 12 graham crackers, broken into smaller pieces
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 tsp salt

Ice Cream Base:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp cream cheese, softened

DIRECTIONS

Make the Jam:
 Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine sugar and strawberries in a 13 x 9 baking dish. Add vanilla and lime juice, then toss to combine.

Roast berries, stirring every ten minutes until the fruit has completely broken down, and the liquid is thick. (Tip: Do the line test. Place the spoon in the jam, then take it out. Try to make a line right down the center of the juice on the spoon. If a clear line can be defined and none of the other liquid on the spoon runs off, your jam is thickened. KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON YOUR JAM ONCE IT HAS PASSED THE LINE TEST; if left unattended it will go from perfectly roasted to burnt. ) This process can take anywhere from 35-90 minutes depending on your oven. (For me, the sweet spot was 75 minutes).

Once it has cooled slightly, transfer jam to a jar or storage container.

Let jam cool completely in the refrigerator at least two hours or overnight.


Make the Graham Cracker Topping:

Pulse graham crackers, butter, sugar, and salt in a food processor until well combined and very fine. Set aside.

Make the Ice Cream Base:
In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup milk and the corn starch, set aside. Place cream cheese in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a 4 qt saucepan, whisk the remaining milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, and salt together; bring milk mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.

Once your milk mixture is boiling, cook for 4 minutes, then stir in the milk and cornstarch mixture. Return milk mixture to a boil and cook for about two minutes, until the mixture has thickened slightly. Take off the heat.

In the bowl with your cream cheese, pour 1/4 cup of your hot milk mixture that has been strained using a fine mesh sieve, Quickly whisk until smooth. Then, whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture that has also been strained using a fine mesh sieve.

Pour mixture into a gallon plastic bag and seal it. Submerge the bag in a bowl of ice water until chilled; about 10-15 minutes.

Pour mixture into the bowl of an ice cream maker, then process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Put It All Together

Once your ice cream is ready, gather together your graham cracker topping, and your roasted strawberry jam.

Starting with your ice cream first, layer the ice cream, graham cracker topping, and jam in a storage container (I used a nonreactive metal loaf pan). Add a layer of ice cream first, then spoon in some jam. Place ice cream on top, then sprinkle in some graham cracker, then spoon in more ice cream, etc. Do this until you have run out of ice cream. (Tip: Use discretion; if you want more jam, add more jam. If you want more topping, add more topping. The amount you use is totally up to you!) When ready, cover your storage container with either its lid, or a sheet of plastic wrap then place in the freezer until its is completed frozen; about 3 hours.

Ready to Serve

For an extra depth of texture, sprinkle some of the remaining graham cracker topping over the ice cream, then serve.

DO AHEAD: Jam and graham cracker topping can be made at least a day ahead. Store both in the refrigerator until ready to use.

SOURCE: Ice cream base slightly adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

On My Bookshelf: The Very Short Story Starter by John Gillard

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If you're an aspiring author like me, then you're constantly grappling with what to write and how to write it. It's a daily struggle for me, a person who knows she wants to write, but doesn't know where to start. Enter: The Very Short Story Starter.

I stumbled across this workbook of sorts one day while perusing the university bookstore for as many pieces of varying writing styles and subjects as I could.  I had magazines, literary journals, and a memoir or two all in my possession at one point or another when I wandered over to the "Writing and Publishing" section. There I found this book, unlike any I'd seen before, just filled to the brim with creative writing prompts with unique starters, and limits. If the prompt says keep it to 500 words, you need to figure out a way to make that happen. If there's one thing I know about myself, it's that I often struggle with brevity, with getting to the point as quickly and effectively as possible. As I thumbed through to land on prompts such as "Imagine you are on a train or at a train station when a murder takes place" and "Go to a local coffee shop, order your favorite drink, and write a story inspired by an incident in a coffee shop before you finish your drink" I knew it was coming home with me.

NOW, let's talk about the book's effectiveness. This is not necessarily a quick activity book. While you are prompted to write short works of prose, the assignments you choose are meant to make you sit down and write. And that's a good thing. Many of the prompts provided are entertaining and thought provoking, and really help to get the creative juices flowing. And if you're worried about whether or not this book may lean heavily on the side of fiction or non-fiction, rest assured that there are plenty of prompts that can benefit anyone. My advice? Write in pencil. You never know how very small a number 500 is until you're writing in pen and getting dangerously close to 430 with no story ending in sight.

The good: This book offers an enriching opportunity to hone your writing skills and think creatively. If you're struggling to get started in the world of writing, or just want to jump-start a stagnant writing project or two, this book does wonders to get your brain back in the proper mindset.

The bad: While the book's introduction section does go into detail about why flash fiction has started to gain in popularity (we live in a busy world, and people like short reads they can easily digest on their daily commute, or on a park bench while sipping a latte), the book sort of throws you right into the deep end without easing you in with some simpler prompts to get you ready.

Bottom Line I've thoroughly enjoyed this book so far. It's forced me to put down my phone, turn off the television, and just write. Some prompts have been more compelling to follow-through on than others, but overall, it's done exactly what it has promised: get me problem-solving my writing projects in a way that makes me feel creative and productive. All my aspiring writers should TOTALLY take advantage of Gillard's fantastic resource.

You can buy The Very Short Story Starter: 101 Flash Fiction Prompts by John Gillard HERE.

Lightly Spiced + Everything Nice Christmas Cookies

This year, I am the Christmas Queen. SERIOUSLY. I am so incredibly proud of myself because I have NOT waited until the very last minute for my gifts. Usually, things get pretty down to the wire for me and I wind up finding myself staring at the impossibly long line at the post office praying that I can get things out on-time, then paying an arm and a leg to insure that possibility becomes a reality. But not this year, friends. This year, your girl started shopping a full TWO (2) months in advance. Granted, that first purchase was actually for myself (holiday cards), and I didm't buy anything else for a month, but it COUNTS. I will say this though: I've been behind on my holiday cookie making/ consumption. Only ONE batch of classically-Christmas cookies (oo alliteration) has made it out of the kitchen, and it's already December 21st! I'm ashamed. BUT, I plan to make up for this in the coming weeks. First up: these very lightly spiced (+ everything nice) Christmas cookies!

These are very, very simple cookies meant for when you want a taste, but you don't have a ton of time to fuss. The base is a classic sugar dough recipe, but with a hint of every single spice you have ever associated with Fall/winter.

These cookies are crispy, buttery and a bit little crunchy from the optional topping of Demerara sugar, which I recommend because not only does it add an extra layer of texture,  it also makes your cookies sparkle like they're supposed at Christmas time. And although these cookies do have spice, it's only a hint. I like it because it elevates your sugar cookie, and gives it a little more oomph. These cookies are for sugar cookie purists looking to fray a little from the pack. Go crazy, but not too crazy, know what I mean?

Try some!

 

LIGHTY SPICED + EVERYTHING NICE CHRISTMAS COOKIES

What You'll Need:

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Demerara sugar for topping, optional

 

DIRECTIONS 

Whisk the spices, salt, baking powder, and 3 cups flour in a small bowl. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer, or a wooden spoon), beat the butter and sugar on high speed until well-combined. Next, add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract, and beat until combined. Scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl if necessary.

Reduce the speed to low, then add about half of the dry ingredients until just combined. Then, add the rest and mix until combined; be careful not to over mix.

Form the dough into two 3/4 inch thick disks (you should see flecks of spices throughout the dough), wrap each disk in plastic wrap, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Place racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Let one disk of dough come to room temperature on the counter for 5-10 minutes so that is softens slightly. On a sheet of parchment paper that has been lightly floured, roll out the first disk of dough to 1/4 inch thickness, dusting with flour if it gets too sticky. Make sure to also flour your rolling pin, and cookie cutters. Cut out shapes with your cookie cutters, then transfer to the cookie sheets. Leave about 1 inch of space between each cookie.

Bake cookies about 12-16 minutes, rotating from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking, until the edges are lightly golden brown. If using, immediately sprinkle Demerara sugar liberally on the tops of each cookie, then let them sit for five minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.

TO STORE: Cookies will last for at least a week if kept in an airtight container.

 

 

SOURCE: Adapted from Bon Appetit and Dorie's Cookies

BOOK REVIEW: Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking

I feel like I've said this before, but it bears repeating: I am a cookbook lover. You know this about me. But one thing that I am not is a cookbook hoarder. I don't have the space for it. But more than that, I've realized that my life has to be about more than just collecting. The books the adorn these shelves must be able to earn their keep. So last Spring, I took a long, hard look at my bookshelf and made some tough decisions. I went through each cookbook that I have accumulated in the past four years. If I loved it for the pictures, but hadn't marked any recipes, it had to go. If I bought it, read it once, then literally forgot that I had it, it had to go. If I hated it because the recipes were completely inconsistent, out it went. And so on. The process took a bit longer than I thought that it would, but in the end, it felt like a well-needed cleanse. I had donated books that were perfect, but not necessarily perfect for me, and freed up beloved real estate on my shelves. This left room for my absolute favorite time of the year: Fall Cookbook Season!  And number one on the list of new titles for Sydney's Library? Breaking Breads!

You may know Uri Scheft as the owner of Breads Bakery, or you may be more familiar with what he has made so popular both in New York, and with literally every online food publication: chocolate babka. People lose their minds over it, and you'll see tons of recipes all over the place trying to replicate it, but there's nothing better than the real deal, so now you can make it in your jammies in the comfort of your own home forever.

Uri was born in Israel, but moved all the way across the world to Denmark during his formative years. This blending of two cultures (mixed in with the handful of cultures from countries that he's lived in as an adult) gives his writing and recipes a sense of well-roundedness that is sometimes very hard to come by. For many, it will be an introduction to spice blends and flavor combinations that will both surprise and entice them.  For me, that's the sign of a real winner. And you know I love me some fresh bread, so it's like a win-win.

Let's get this out of the way first: this book is not for beginners. Nor is it, I'm afraid, for bakers with very little patience. For starters, bread is never quick and it makes you wait. For hours. And hours. And Uri, who is truly an artist, not only wants your bread creations to taste good, but he also pushes and encourages you to become your own resident bread artist at home. It is challenging, it is sometimes confusing, and it's also very delicious. And while the instructions can seem a little daunting (and at times you may feel like you have completely lost your will and ability to finish the project), Uri gives very detailed step-by-step instructional photos to help keep you on track. I needed those. Desperately.

I also enjoy that this book has tons of variety. Of course the core of this book is bread (flatbreads, challahs, babkas, etc), but you've also got cookies, hummus, and  great recipes for things like preserved lemons and babaghanouj. After completing a five-hour recipe for bread, you will want to take advantage of something quick and relatively easy to ease yourself back into the kitchen.

So, if you've made it this far, let me break it down for you:

The Good: This book is going to teach you how to make bread, or else. You will learn about yourself, and learn about your strengths and varying levels of patience. I also love how absolutely thorough and thoughtful Uri was when writing this book. It's got everything from proper bread storage tips, to words of encouragement, to alternative designs and creations for when you want to deviate a little from the recipe. Every question is covered.

The Bad: There's nothing bad about this book, really. One thing that I wish had been included was bolded estimates at the top indicating  how long each recipe would take altogether. Of course, I understand that each kitchen is different so therefore proofing times will be different, but a ballpark number  would've been so wonderful. I also wish that some instructions had been explained a little bit clearer, but I have always been able to soldier on and put something tasty on the table.

Overall: This was a book that I was so excited about, and my expectations were totally exceeded. Almost every recipe in this book has been bookmarked for further endeavors in the DD kitchen. This is my favorite book of Fall 2016, and I urge you to buy it for every patient baker you know. Once they've got it in their hands, encourage them to make the Sticky Pull-Apart Cinnamon Challah Braid (pg. 56), because it is my favorite and I need more people to talk about it with for hours and hours.

 

You can buy it here!

P.S. HAPPY THANKSGIVING, GUYS!!! I have 100000 pies to make.