Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist


Summer Solstice Screams For Ice Cream

In the South, summer is as much about squeaky screen doors, slowly swaying hammocks, sweet tea and fireflies as it is about watermelon, peaches, and that perennial summer staple, ice cream.

So, with the official launch of summer yesterday, it’s time to talk ice cream. Of course, there are oodles of commercial varieties available, but it’s so easy and fun to make your own. The recipe for Salted Caramel Macadamia Ice Cream that follows (adapted from my next book, The French Cook: Eclairs and Cream Puffs – Gibbs Smith, October 2013) kicks Ben & Jerry’s straight off its Rocky Road in the  pure deliciousness department.

In the book, I present it served within a cream puff and topped with hot caramel sauce (a variation on a profiterole) which is absolutely incredible. However, it’s summertime and the living is easy. Take a little baking break and serve it plain, with hot caramel sauce, or sandwich it between a best-quality commercial chocolate chip cookie, ginger snap, or dark chocolate cookie. And, when you’re eating it, be sure to give yourself license to get messy and let at least some of it drip down your chin. That’s part of summer, too. Bon appetit!

Profiterole with Salted Caramel Macadamia Ice Cream and Hot Caramel Sauce. Photo by Alexandra DeFurio.

Profiterole with Salted Caramel Macadamia Ice Cream and Hot Caramel Sauce. Photo by Alexandra DeFurio.



Hot Tips for Cool Ice Cream

Today’s world is filled with many first-class commercially prepared ice cream brands, but making your own is truly rewarding and simple. If you don’t own an ice cream maker, it’s worth making the purchase. My Krups basic ice cream machine cost less than $50, lasted 20 years, and made countless batches of ice cream. It is possible to make ice cream without an ice cream maker by stirring the blend with a fork every 15 minutes as it is setting up, but the results will be less creamy and less aerated. Most commercial ice cream makers designed for home kitchens use a frozen 1.5-quart container that turns while a paddle moves through the ice cream base to aid in even freezing.

Ice cream in French cooking is a frozen Crème Anglaise (see recipe to follow) for vanilla; additional flavorings can be added as outlined are in the recipes that follow. A couple of tips to keep in mind:

1. Make the Crème Anglaise the day before and refrigerate overnight before freezing. It needs to be cold when it goes into the machine to prevent crystals from forming.

2. Freeze the ice cream maker’s canister overnight, as well, for the same reasons. Shake it to test that the internal freezing agent is solid and not sloshing around. If you take these two steps, you will be rewarded with creamy, smooth ice cream in just 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Turn the prepared ice cream out into a well-chilled glass bowl or container, cover tightly, and store in the freezer until ready to use. It should store well for a week.

Recipe: Salted Caramel Macadamia Nut Ice Cream with Hot Caramel Sauce

Caramel lovers will think they’ve died and gone to France with this heady combination of caramel and crunchy macadamia nut ice cream with hot caramel sauce.

A day before freezing, prepare the Caramel Sauce (see below) and Crème Anglaise (see below). Cover and refrigerate each separately overnight.

The next day, whisk 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon of the cooled caramel sauce and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt into the chilled crème anglaise base. Freeze according to package directions, adding 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, salted macadamia nuts 10 minutes into the freezing process, before the ice cream is fully set. Continue freezing until set, about 15 more minutes. Warm the prepared caramel sauce over medium-low heat.  Drizzle over bowls filled with scoops of the ice cream.

Recipe: Crème Anglaise

Basic Vanilla Custard Sauce

Special equipment needed: chinois or fine strainer.

(Yield: 2 1/2 cups)

This creamy, vanilla-scented custard sauce is widely served as a dessert sauce with many classic French desserts. It also serves as a base for any and all flavored ice creams. It’s a snap to make, but needs your full attention, mild heat and constant stirring to avoid a pan full of scrambled, sweet eggs. This actually happened to me once when I was making a huge batch at Fauchon with another male apprentice. Trembling under the ever-present watch of celebrated pastry chef Pierre Herme, we were able to rescue it by getting it off the heat and through a chinois. You can do the same. If it looks like it’s starting to curdle or over-thicken, get it off the heat and through a strainer. Cool crème anglaise over a water bath of ice and water in a large bowl to get it to safe temperature and stop the cooking. It will store for several days covered and refrigerated.

1 cup whole milk

1 cup Half & Half

1 fresh vanilla bean cut in half vertically to expose seeds

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch sea or kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Have a prepared ice/water bath prepared in a large bowl by adding a few cups of ice and 1 cup of water. Also, have the chinois or fine strainer nearby. In a large saucepan, heat together the milk, Half & Half, and halved vanilla bean over medium heat. Bring to a low simmer. Separately, combine the egg yolks, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and whisk vigorously until lemony and frothy, about one minute. Once the milk mixture is simmering, gradually stream it into the egg mixture, whisking the entire time, until it has all been added.  Return the sauce to the same pan the milk was heated in, cooking over medium low heat. With a wooden spoon, stir constantly, reaching all edges and bottom of the pan. At first there will be froth on the top of the sauce. This will disappear after 3 minutes. Watch closely now. Keep stirring another minute or two, or until the sauce has thickened slightly and naps the back of the spoon. You will know it is done when you run your finger down the back of the spoon and get a clear strip that holds without the sauce running back over it or when it reaches 170F. Pour the sauce through the chinois into a clean bowl. Set over water bath and stir until the sauce is cooled. Stir in the remaining teaspoon of vanilla extract. Refrigerate, covered,  until ready to use.

Recipe: Sauce Caramel

Caramel Sauce

(Yield: 1 1/4 cup)

Making caramel sauce, basically cooked and caramelized sugar finished with cream and butter, is not difficult but it deserves attention and respect. Hot caramel is dangerously hot stuff. Keep your eyes on it at all times and prepare it when young children and pets are not around. It’s best to have everything measured and ready to go before you get started. It takes a few minutes to get there, but once the sugar starts caramelizing, it goes really fast. Your nose will know. Your kitchen will smell faintly of caramel after about 5 or 6 minutes. Once it’s a golden, nutty, toasted color, it’s time to finish it off. Like all of the sauces in this chapter, it stores beautifully in the refrigerator, covered, for several days. Heat gently over low heat to return to its warm, sauce form.

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter

1/2 cup whole cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Generous pinch sea or kosher salt

In a medium, sturdy-bottomed sauce pan, stir together the sugar and water with a wooden spoon. Cook over low heat, uncovered, until the sugar granules are melted, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium high and allow to simmer vigorously, stirring here and there (not constantly or it might crystallize) with a wooden spoon. After 5 to 6 minutes, large bubbles will start forming at the top. This, along with a tepid caramel aroma, is your sign that the sugar is about to caramelize. Keep cooking, swishing the pan carefully, but not stirring, until the sugar turns fragrant and a nutty, caramel brown. Remove from the heat. Incorporate the butter in 4 parts, gently dropping into the pan and whisking gently to incorporate. The caramel will react when the butter hits it by bubbling up aggressively. Proceed with caution to prevent at burn. Return the pan to low heat, drizzling in the cream and whisking to incorporate. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, whisking to help re-incorporate any caramel that has hardened and until it becomes a thick, beautiful creamy golden sauce. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Serve hot or warm.







Thrice “Baked” Nice

In this, their third cookbook, Brooklyn-based baking dynamos Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito really hit the ball out of the park, or should that be Yankee Stadium?

Baked Elements: Our  Ten Favorite Ingredients (Abrams, September 2012) is jam-packed with the authors’ highly original and decidedly tasty approach to baking and pairing flavors. This book is organized by their 10 favorite ingredients: peanut butter, lemon & lime, caramel, booze, pumpkin, malted  milk powder, cinnamon, cheese, chocolate and banana. The ingredients that “we would take to a desert island or rescue from a burning house,” as the authors’ wittily write.

They traverse the landscape of Americana with soul-warming and regionally influenced treats like buttermilk donuts and devil dogs.  Ironic, absent-minded professor humor (i.e., “If you have ever woken up with a slight hangover and a dubious, half-remembered, half-eaten jar of peanut butter at your side. We can empathize. We have lived this shame.”) that make this not only an extremely informed read, but an extremely fun one as well.

Beautifully organized and photographed by Tina Rupp, it is a must-read for Baked fans and bakers everywhere.  Seventy five delicious recipes with fun names (Lacy Panty Cakes, Lemon Pecorino Pepper Icebox Cookies,  Toasted Pumpkin Seed Brittle, Tunnel of Hazelnut Fudge Cake, Banana in a Blanket, and a luscious Cheddar Corn Souffle) are bound to bring out the inner baker in anyone.

Cracking the Cookbook Code Retreat

Join me and blogger, chef and author Beckie Carrico Hemmerling March 29 – April 1, 2019 for Cracking the Cookbook Code, Writing, Cooking, Marketing, Photography + Wellness Retreat. Limited to only 8 people, we will have a blissful few days in a beautiful, relaxing setting with like-minded souls, eating delicious food and having a wonderful time. Click for details.

Latest from the Blog
Never Miss a Post!

Sign up for my newsletter and never miss a post or give-away.