Monday November 22, 2010
A Ceylon Plan not to be confused with a Cylon Plan
They boasted a cream colored rind with dark green stripes nestled in the ridges of their shells; about the size of a very small acorn squash, but more squat. Pretty much adorable. How had I never seen these cuties before? Perhaps I’d dismissed them out of hand, thinking them some variety of ornamental squash.
“What are these little guys?!”
“Sweet dumpling squash,” Mac said. “They’re tough- you’ll think I sold you a gourd. But once you’ve got ‘em cut open, they really live up to their name.”
Say no more! I loaded my bag full of squash and a dozen eggs, with vague notions of ice cream in my mind.
Just on the heels of squash seed brittle, and with plenty of it still in a bag on the counter, I felt inspired to make the ultimate autumnal sundae, something that could also double as a Thanksgiving dessert.
The next day, I decapitated the squashes, scooped out the seeds (saved, of course, for my next round of brittle!) and tossed the Sweet Dumplings in the oven to roast. Meanwhile, I started making the ice cream, bringing a pot of milk and cream to a simmer with a split Indonesian vanilla bean and a 3” quill of Ceylon cinnamon.
But before I cracked my first egg, I heard the deep, raspy sound of Mr. BraveTart standing behind me, clearing his throat.
I turned, surprised by the faint undertone of irritability I detected. “Yes?”
He looked at me. He looked at the bubbling pot of cream. He looked at the steam rolling out of the oven from the squash. He looked at me. He looked at the clock.
“What are you doing, baby doll?”
“Making ice cream! Oh my gosh, you’re going to flip out, it’s going to be this—”
“The game starts in ten minutes.”
As we don’t have a television, my sweet darling and I have a tradition of going to Winchell's (a sports bar owned by two friends and fellow CIA alums) every Sunday during football season to watch The Game. Tons of football, CIA trained chefs turning all of their talents to potato skins. I have no great love of sports, but I can’t complain about an afternoon spent at the Winch.
My husband has the most phlegmatic, happy go-lucky disposition. He follows me to the ends of the earth in search of yummy food, from chicken sashimi in Japan to Cervena ragu in New Zealand. He tries all of my insane experimental desserts and buys me a dozen bars of dark chocolate instead of flowers on our anniversary. The only thing this wonderful, angelic man has ever asked for in return? That I join him on Sundays to watch football.
The game, a match between his beloved Green Bay Packers and Some Other Guys, would start in ten minutes. Without hitting a single red light, we can make it to Winchell’s in twelve. . .
“OH, CUSS WORDS!”
I shut off the oven, leaving the squash inside, slapped a lid on the cream and shoved it in the fridge (very upsetting), inadvertently smeared a dark speckled streak of vanilla across my forehead, and rushed out the door on my husband’s coat tails.
Now, I like to say that we only missed kickoff, but to a rabid, cheese-hat wearing Packer maniac, that would be a gross understatement. I plied him with Kentucky Ale, ordered extra appetizers, and did my best to cheer at the appropriate moments (a task made monumentally difficult as I a have yet to reliably distinguish teams A from B during “the match”).
Somebody ran the ball into the
in zone end zone; I jumped up, flung my arms in the air, “Go Packies!”
“Wrong team, honey. That’s the Jets. Here, hold still.” He dipped his napkin in a water, scrubbed the vanilla off my forehead.
I sighed in defeat. The team dressed in green had seemed such likely candidates for the Green Bay Packers. Instead, I learned, their yellow pants distinguish the Packies. Go figure. Would you believe I’ve struggled with this for five years now?
As I kept watching the teams play, I noticed that in addition to the total yellow herring of their pant colors, the Packers have a super dark, kale green kind of jersey. The Jets, on the other hand, have a more sagey green.
“What’s that?” my husband, entrenched in the game, nevertheless leaned in closer to try and hear my mutterings.
“I’m sorry. Nothing…” And for the rest of the game, I fantasized about sage caramel drizzled over the ice cream.
As it turned out, I didn’t get to finish making the ice cream until the next day, which turned out to be the best delay of game ever (haha, football term!). With an almost 24 hour steep time, the milk and cream had extracted every drop of flavor the vanilla and cinnamon had to offer.
(Side note: 90% of the cinnamon consumed in America is Cassia, a proper member of the cinnamon family, but a reckless, brash sort of spice. Think: red hots. It has an intense, sharp spice perfect for gingerbread or pumpkin pie. Nothing wrong with Cassia. It’s what I use most often. Ceylon, or true cinnamon, has a complex, floral, and incredibly aromatic flavor. Still unmistakeably cinnamon, but with a very rounded, gentle quality. Half the intrigue of this recipe comes from taking a bite and having your taste buds do a double take, thrown by the familiar yet unusual Ceylon flavor.)
And, as with any ice cream, allowing the base to chill for 12 hours resulted in an incredibly smooth texture. I’ve seen a lot of people scoff at this step, thinking it a waste of time, but it has real results. This allows the proteins in the egg yolks time to absorb any available moisture (water) in the base, creating a thicker mixture and a creamier final product as it has fewer water particles that might freeze into ice crystals.
From start to finish, it took over 36 hours to make this ice cream. And, looking back, I don’t think I’d try to shave a single minute off the clock. Sure, maybe an 18 hour steep would result in just as marvelous a flavor, but I don’t know that. What I do know: a 24 hour cold steep pulls out an absolutely epic flavor blitz from the vanilla and cinnamon. And the 12 hour chill time remains non negotiable.
I can assure you, you’ve never had ice cream like this before. (Um, if you have message me, because I would like to propose everlasting friendship.) It has the flavor of all of autumn rolled into one bite. Like pumpkin pie, transfigured from humble mortal origins to something far more heavenly. The cinnamon and vanilla constitute a “dual threat” of flavor, with an extra point from the earthy background note of roasted squash. A drizzle of salty sweet sage caramel adds an unexpected herbal flavor, and amps up the autumnal quality of the whole. Lastly, the addictive nutty crunch from the toasted squash seeds. Spicy, earthy, creamy paired with sweet, salty, herbal, and crunchy. My kind of 3-4 defense.
So, it’s just Monday. You’ve got all the time in the world to get this Ceylon ice cream started well before The Game and finished in advance of Thanksgiving. Get started now, the play clock’s running out!
6 comments and counting
Nov 22, 2010 · 12:01 PM
You picked up a variety of kabocha squash called Sweet Dumpling. I got seeds from this site. They are perfect for individual soup containers or in your case, an ice cream cup. That was very clever! Maybe I’ll change up my soup course with the squash to a dessert course for TG. Thank you!
Nov 22, 2010 · 2:48 PM
Homemade cinnamon ice cream (a recipe of your own creation, no less) AND a Packers fan (even if only by extension of your husband) — great, great, great! I like that you added vanilla. I thought about that, but decided to stick to DL’s recipe. Also, sage caramel sounds insane! Must try that.
· heather · http://squirrelbread.wordpress.com
Nov 22, 2010 · 6:53 PM
Love the story I’m not too good with football either, I just play along and cheer when other people cheer. Ice cream sounds delish too!
· Vicki @ Wilde in the Kitchen · http://wildeinthekitchen.blogspot.com
Nov 23, 2010 · 11:04 AM
stella, this blog post is hilarious. next time you’re running late, just come to our house for THE GAME! much closer and you and i can tackle appetizers together
· brigitte · http://www.brigittecooks.com
Nov 23, 2010 · 12:23 PM
@momo jiri, it’s a kabocha?! I love it even more now! Half my inspiration was from living in Japan and enjoying kabocha ice cream in kabocha cups! Thanks so much for the link. I’ll have to order some seeds for Mr. Bravetart to plant in his garden next year.
@Heather, thanks for stopping by! A Wisconsin native, I take it? It’s very hard for me to resist adding vanilla. No subtlety here on BravTart.
@Kells, awwww, hurray! I’ll always remember, I ate Ben and Jerry’s for the first time with you! While watching the beautiful glow of the Mid-Hudson Bridge.
@Vicki, yes, that is my exact strategy! And the reason for my troubles, as I started cheering when people were cheering for an entirely different game. So embarrassing.
@Brigitte Thanks so much! Look, I know where you live, we will totally take you up on that, so watch out! Apps with Brigitte? Sign me up.