As we hibernated indoors yesterday, away from the stifling humidity, most of our energies wound up in the kitchen. I had been wanting to make Peter Reinhart’s recipe for Casatiello, and Italian Brioche, studded with bits of spicy salami and gouda cheese. What I love about his book is the complete thoroughness of instruction; he describes the process of how the dough will evolve, and what to expect. This dough has a high butter content, and after the butter has been added, the dough is very sticky, and altogether messy, resembling cookie dough. His instructions tell you to work the dough for 12 minutes, for in that amount of time the butter will distribute evenly and your sticky mass of dough evolves into a beautifully smooth, tacky ball that cleanly rotates around the mixer bowl. It was definitely one of those angels-singing marvel moments as I watched it happen. I baked it in a square springform pan to make one loaf; you can bake it in bags and in smaller sizes more typical of Brioche, too. It’s delicious, and made me wonder about other cheeses and even adding snippets of fresh herbs, such as the French tarragon that is always looking for something to creep into…..
In-between my dough mixing and shaping, James took over the kitchen and used the mixer’s food grinder attachment to make an amazing tomato sauce. The food grinder is great, because you get all of the pulp and meat and juices of the tomato, while efficiently discarding the seeds and skin. We have almost all heirloom tomato plants, and the flavors of these tomatoes are out of this world. Describing a slice of Carbon uses similar language as describing wine… smokey, bold, strong finish. So when you mix all these robust, intense flavors together, and cook them down all afternoon, you have a sauce that literally sings to you. He also incorporated caramelized onions and banana peppers, plus some sauteed chicken tenders. As James put it: summer in a bowl. It was excellent.
So where’s dessert? Well, this is a good example of how mistakes happen – even to those of us who’ve been cooking and baking for over 30 years. We had leftover egg yolks, because earlier this week, James had made zucchini bread, and one of the most awesome ingredients he uses is candied nuts. He’d done both pecans and walnuts, and the candying process uses a bunch of egg whites. So, what to make with egg yolks? Well, certainly a custard comes to mind – and with the heat, why not ice cream? Sounded good to me. Some things you take for granted, some things you don’t think about, and sometimes, even when you’re standing right there at the stove, stirring your mixture of cream and sugar and eggs and bits of natural vanilla bean, you take your eyes off what you’re doing to talk to your spouse, and the next thing you know, you have bits of cooked egg separating rapidly from your liquid. Gah. I tried plunging it into a water bath, stirring madly, but there are chemical processes that just don’t reverse themselves. I pitched a fit, pissed-off with myself for forgetting how quickly chemistry can happen, and then had to decide what to do.
I decided to give it a try, anyway, because the flavor was amazing, and not eggy, but the big question was texture. I chilled the custard, then put it in my Krups machine that I’ve had for 20 years. And waited.
It never froze. I think it was the fact my custard was too warm, still. So what to do? This is when experience is a good thing, because it makes you more resourceful. Rather than focusing on the failure of ice cream, I focused on what was wrong with my dish, and what could I turn it into? I had it: Milkshakes. I strained the custard through a sieve, removing the bits of hardened egg proteins. Then I added frozen strawberries to the blender until it was completely full. I figured that if any of the egg had made it through the sieve, the texture would be masked by the presence of strawberries (and keep in mind, the mixture never scorched, and was utterly, vanilla-ey delicious, despite the overcooking.)
The result was stupendous. My husband declared it to be one of the top 5 milkshakes of his life.
What was leftover was poured into a dixie cup, popped in the freezer with a fork in it to make a makeshift ice cream bar. The texture on that might be a bit grainy, but at least we know it’ll taste good!
Now it’s Sunday, and I think I’d like to go out for brunch.