Monday, June 06, 2005

Pizza Crust Instead; Ice Cream (and garden update)

It counts as bread, doesn't it? Peter Reinhart thinks so. I used the "Pizza Crust 1" recipe from Crust & Crumb.

The crust turned out well. The flavor was great - not floury or yeasty, just tasty. The texture - OK. It was more "bready" than I usually prefer, which is I guess not surprising considering the source of the recipe. I was hoping for a thinner and crisper crust.

In a nutshell, I would have to say that this crust doesn't quite merit the amount of time spent in pre-ferment and ferment. After two days of yeasts growing, I would like a pizza crust that makes me want to jump up and down. Two days is not worth a "pretty decent" crust.

So the search for a good pizza crust goes on.

Now, to ice creams, sherbets, and sorbets: I love ice cream. I have yet to meet a flavor I didn't like. Rum raisin, not wild about it, but I don't dislike it. While I love the wide variety of flavors available to me as a North American consumer, I recently began to feel that it was NOT ENOUGH. Sure, if I go to Dairy Queen, I can get ice cream containing whatever candy my little heart desires; and at least 20 flavors of Ben and Jerry's are available 24/7 courtesy of the Kroger Corporation. I can also get "homemade" ice creams from a selection of shops in our fair city.

BUT. Not enough. Not for me. If I think of a flavor, I want to be able to try it quickly and (relatively) cheaply - not buy a plane ticket to New York or Milan or wherever they're making designer gelato flavors these days. If I hear of chocolate-chipotle, or lavendar-honey, or cinnamon-basil, or dang it, BLUE CHEESE flavored ice cream, I'd like to taste it, not simply imagine it. And speaking of sorbets - why do supermarket sorbet flavors come in only lemon, raspberry, strawberry, mango...? Are these the only fruits available to us? Heavens no! Why can I not get tangerine, or peach, or nectarine, or plum, or honeydew, or watermelon, or...?

There was nothing for it but to buy my own Cuisinart ice cream maker. It ran me a bit less than $50, so it was a rather pricey appliance. I could've probably found a hand-cranked freezer for less, but when you figure in the cost of ice, the proper salt, and the total muscle power and effort needed - the savings didn't seem worth it. Remember, I want odd ice cream quickly! That's the whole point. And with the Cuisinart, I have that. It might not be worth $50 to you, but it is to me.

It's insanely easy to operate. Freeze the freezer bowl for 24 hours. Make your ice cream or sorbet recipe. Put the bowl in the machine. Turn it on. Pour in whatever recipe you made. Wait 25 minutes. EAT.

If you make a custard-style ice cream, the recipe can get involved - not difficult, but somewhat time-consuming. Sorbets, on the other hand, are faster than I ever could have believed. Here's a quick explanation (I'll edit this post and add the actual recipe tomorrow):

Make sugar syrup (basically, dissolve a quantity of sugar in an equal quantity of water over heat; takes 10 minutes max); peel and cut up fruit; put fruit, sugar syrup, and a bit of lemon juice in the blender. Taste and balance sugar and lemon. Blend again. Pour into the freezer.

So far I have made mango-strawberry and honeydew-blueberry sorbets. Both were very good. They had different textures, which I am chalking up to the respective water contents of the different fruits. My next trick will be strawberry-balsamic vinegar sorbet, with the vinegar replacing lemon juice in the master recipe. I'll let you know how it goes.

As ice creams go, I have only made one so far: deep chocolate with Oreos. It was tasty, but not quite what I wanted. After all, Ben and Jerry's makes about a billion versions of chocolate ice cream containing tasty additions, and so does every other ice cream purveyor. And while my ice cream may be one day as good as theirs, why spend the time trying to perfect the ultimate chocolate when there are so many good possibilities to choose from?

However, this attempt was a great learning experience. I found out from this experiment that the quality of the cream you use really DOES affect the final flavor significantly. I've never particularly liked the taste of the cream sold at King Soopers - like most fatty dairy products, it picks up the flavor of its storage area, and when I buy it, it generally tastes equally of cream and grocery store cooler. This is obvious when you use it for whipped cream; although it's less obviously in ice cream, I could still taste it over the huge chocolate flavor. It made the ice cream taste "old" and "freezer-burned". I'm going to have to find a better source of cream if I want to make really great ice creams.

So my next ice cream experiment will involve a strange flavor of some kind. I just borrowed The Herbfarm Cookbook from the library, which contains a detailed explanation of how to infuse any herb in cream, and a master recipe for herbal ice creams. I'm most interested in a combination of fruit and herbal flavors. There are lots of ideas to choose from.

In short, if you are an ice cream freak (like me), a Cuisinart might be worth your while. If you are not a freak, it's probably going to sit unused.

Garden report: pole beans are up! I harvested french breakfast radishes last Friday and ate them with butter and salt. A great combination, and the radishes themselves were quite pretty - pink with white tips. Beets and carrots are going like gangbusters. I was going to plant cukes; I think I'll put in more tomatos and basil instead. The plan is to make a batch of sauce, as well as lots of pesto for freezing. I may have to rip up the dill to do this. Sort of sad, but not really; it's growing, but not very fast. Without cukes, I won't have much use for it anyhow.