Monday, June 19, 2017

Homemade Vanilla and Strawberry Ice Cream - No Ice Cream Maker Required!

Once you make your own ice cream at home, using only natural ingredients, store-bought stuff with lots of artificial flavors and sweeteners will seem unappealing. On a hot day that you have to spend inside, why not make yourself an ice cold treat? This can be a great fun project, and it is easy to involve your family in the process. In order to make it, you will need 2 large plastic or glass bowls for mixing and freezing, space in your freezer, a mixer, and for the strawberry ice cream, a food processor. 

Ingredients (to make about 2 pints each of two different flavors, vanilla and strawberry):

4 eggs 
450ml/1 pint heavy whipping cream
300g/1 pint strawberries
250g granulated sugar
16g/2 packets vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp. vanilla extract)

Separate the eggs. Add 50g sugar to the egg yolks and stir them in a bain marie. If you do not have one per se, you can just put a saucepan with water, which you bring to a boil, and then another saucepan placed on top (and into the lower one) with the ingredients, as in this picture:

Stir continually for a few minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and the egg starts to thicken slightly. This will pasteurize the eggs. Don't leave it until it gets lumpy! 

While the egg yolk and sugar mixture is cooling, beat the cream until it is stiff. In the second bowl, beat the egg whites and gradually pour in the rest of the sugar (as if you were making meringues, for those who have done that). When the egg yolk mixture is cool, add it to the egg white mixture and stir it in. Then add the cream and stir it in, until it is homogeneous. Finally, add the vanilla sugar or vanilla essence.

That is the basis for all ice creams, and it is only from this point that they diverge as you may wish to add different flavors, whether chocolate, rum and raisin, crumbled Heath bars or Oreos, or anything else. 

For the strawberry ice cream, the next step is to chop them very finely in a food processor. 

Obviously raspberries, cherries, and other fruits may be substituted. Take half of the base ice cream mixture and mix it gently together with the strawberries. 


You now have a batch of vanilla ice cream and a batch of strawberry ice cream ready to go in the freezer.

After an hour and a half or so, take the bowls out and stir them, before returning them to the freezer. This is crucial to ensuring that they freeze evenly and preventing ice from forming that will make the ice cream's texture less smooth.

Stir them again every hour. The last time I made it, the strawberry ice cream was ready in about 3 hours, and the vanilla in about 5 hours. The difference in time is because of the different compositions (the strawberries contain water) and probably also the different material the bowls I used were made from.

Before they get very hard, transfer them to plastic containers with lids, and they can now stay in the freezer until you are ready to eat them. They shouldn't stay in the freezer for more than a month - not that it is likely that you could wait that long before eating them in their entirety!

Your teenager can help, even with their cellphone in their hand, which is good news, because participating in making ice cream for the first time is precisely the sort of thing they will want to share on Snapchat!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Cold Brew Coffee

I discovered cold brew coffee somewhat by accident. I like to drink iced coffee in the summer, and once at Starbucks I was asked whether I wanted regular iced coffee or cold brew. I hadn't heard of the latter, and so gave it a try, and found I really liked the flavor, which has a smoothness and richness to it, without any of the bitterness that coffee brewed hot and fast sometimes has. It took a while, but I eventually decided to try making it at home, and I have been very pleased with the results - both the flavor, and the fact that I can simply pour myself a coffee in the morning rather than having to make it then.

The procedure is simple. Just use the amount of coffee and water that you usually do for your own tastes. The big difference is that you will not heat the water. When I make it, I grind 2-3 scoops of coffee beans coarsely, and put them in a French press that makes 3 mugs of coffee. I then add cold or room temperature water (depending whether I have filtered water or am using tap water) so that the French press is 2/3 to completely full, corresponding to how much coffee I put in (the recommended ratio is roughly one part coffee to six parts water). I stir it to make sure that all the grounds are wet and hopefully most are submerged. Finally I turn the top so that the spout is closed, and leave it to brew at room temperature for 24 hours.

If your French press has a really good filter, you might not need to use a coffee filter, especially as the grounds need to be coarse. But if your French press has seen better days and tends to let particles through, then filter the coffee through a paper coffee filter (note the way to fold the bottom and side so that it opens conveniently so as to fit in the filter holder).

You can enjoy the coffee then, or put it in a jar in the fridge to enjoy on a later occasion. Cold brew is served diluted - I drink it 2/3 cold brew and 1/3 milk and the taste is exquisite!