Dual Macaron Fail

In mid-January, Josh bought me a new oven, and I LOVE it. A few weeks ago though, I tried to bake macarons in it for the first time, and they didn’t turn out! Needless to say, I was very disappointed and set out to figure out what I was doing wrong.

Originally, my posts about these two macarons were going to be recipe posts, but since the macarons did not turn out right, well, you will get some pictures of failed macarons instead!

Josh has been wanting me to make lavender macarons for a while, and I even bought lavender flavoring a long time ago in preparation for this. I was too scared to use a full teaspoon of flavoring so I reduced my lavender flavoring to 1/2 teaspoon.

I bought my lavender flavoring from Beanilla.com. You can find it here.

I also tried out two macaron mats from Williams-Sonoma. These saved me a lot of time, but I’m not quite sure if they are going to work for me. I will mention later what I think I need to do, but it will require more experimentation.

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I did add food coloring to make the macaron shells purple, but as usual, the color “fades” out after baking.

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My first mistake with the lavender macarons: I think I overmixed the batter. Usually, I can tell when I need to stop, but this time I mixed a lot longer than I usually do.  I didn’t end up with any hats this time after piping them out, but the texture was all wrong after the macarons baked.

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My second mistake: Baking on the wrong rack.  I baked my first batch on the top rack of my oven. Oops! That was a bad idea and I ended up with a small triangle of macarons that looked okay, but the macarons on the outer edges looked like mini-volcanoes!

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My second tray of macarons turned out looking better, but they almost seemed overbaked after the recipe bake time of 12 minutes total. So that would be mistake number three. Their feet also weren’t quite level. On this second tray, I changed my oven setting to convection (we splurged and paid $100 extra for true convection, which means there is a heating element by the fan) and baked the tray on the middle rack.

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I had been wanting to make Italian meringue buttercream for a macaron filling for a while, so even though these macarons didn’t turn out right, I went ahead and made the Italian meringue buttercream anyway.

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Sadly, my son Matthias is not a fan of marshmallow, and this is basically a homemade marshmallow cream. So he didn’t really like these macarons.

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It was a surprise to me that these “volcano” macarons tasted better than the traditionally-shaped macarons. In fact, these were all eaten up first. I think my kids saw these as a novelty. They had fun eating them!

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These macarons almost looked pretty (and you can tell that the purple faded out of the shell), but they were a tad too crispy for me, even with a day or two in the fridge after being filled. The flavor was fine though, which was a relief. I didn’t want the lavender flavor to be overpowering. One picture I forgot to take was of the inside of the macaron. Even though it looks pink outside, it was purple inside!  If I have another chance to experiment with these, I will definitely need to add more food coloring and reduce my bake time by 2 minutes.

My second attempt was actually a few days after I made the lavender macarons. I wanted to make double chocolate macarons for the refreshment reception after my son Corran’s band concert, but after a frustrating afternoon of lopsided macaron shells, I had to give up and make chocolate chip cookies instead, along with a lemon drizzle traybake from one of Mary Berry’s books… which will hopefully be a post soon!

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This time, I mixed the batter until I felt it was enough (and did the V-test with my spatula) and ended up with my little hats again. I think I need to practice until I get no hats. But in the meantime, little hats are good because it means I didn’t overmix the batter.

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These are the only macaron shells I got that had level feet. These were baked on parchment paper in a quarter sheet pan. I wrote earlier that I need to experiment more with my new macaron mats.  All of my lopsided macarons were baked on those two mats, so I am wondering if I need to put the mats on a rimmed sheet pan like this one from Williams-Sonoma, instead of on a large cookie sheet.

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Lopsided macaron shells that were baked on the new macaron mats on a large cookie sheet

I also reduced my bake time by 1 minute each rotation. So I baked these macarons at 325 degrees F using the convection setting, on the middle rack, for 5 minutes. Then, I would rotate the pan and bake for another 5 minutes.

This method produced macarons with a texture closer to what I was expecting. Once I gave up on making them for the reception, I decided to let my family have these lopsided ones. I filled them with a chocolate glaze (from a batch of eclairs I made last week… yet another thing I need to practice: choux pastry!) and also the Italian meringue buttercream that I used for the lavender macarons.

The chocolate-filled ones were more popular than the buttercream-filled ones, so I will have to remember that for next time!

We just finished eating the macarons today, so that means I can start prepping for another go at them soon. I’m not sure when that will be, but hopefully before the end of the month!

Thanks for reading!

Lynn

 

 

 

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Key Lime-Mint Bundt Cake With Key Lime Icing

It’s not hard to tell that I have been baking a lot of bundt cakes! For me, they are much easier to make than a layer cake, and I don’t have to really decorate them. Drizzling or pouring icing onto a bundt cake and letting the gorgeous design do the rest is my kind of decorating.

This cake comes courtesy of my good friend Lanett, who is one of the most awesome people I know. She was kind enough to let me in on her buyer’s group for Comic-Con International, so I decided to bake a cake of her choice (and also because I had a major cake craving after talking to her on the phone!). So… yes, this cake is her fault! Not a bad thing though, because I have to admit that this cake was really, really (yes, really!) yummy. I made a chocolate bundt cake (another blog post) a few days after making this one and the chocolate one just couldn’t hold a candle to this one, and I LOVE chocolate!

I went to two websites before deciding on the recipe I kind of followed. I say kind of followed because I ended up changing a few of the ingredients. This cake is supposed to be a mojito cake, but Josh and I don’t drink alcohol so we didn’t have any rum around to use in it.

The recipe I used is from One Sweet Mess.

The changes I made:

  • Left out the coconut or white rum
  • used 1/2 tsp of imitation rum extract (I’m not sure if this added anything to the cake; I’ll probably just leave it out next time and use vanilla extract instead)
  • 1/2 tsp of mint extract (this might have been slightly too much if you’re not into mint, but I actually liked this amount in the cake itself)
  • Left out vanilla extract
  • Used 1 cup of regular milk instead of coconut milk
  • I cheated and used the bottled lime juice from the grocery store that is usually in the produce section.
  • I only had 1 key lime for the zest. I would have used the zest of 3 key limes if I had had them. You want the lime to shine in this cake.

The icing was really simple. I just used 1 -2 cups of powdered sugar and added a teaspoon or two lime juice and heavy cream to it until it was of drizzling consistency.  I think the 1 -2 cups of powdered sugar wasn’t enough though so I had to make another cup of icing. The lime juice just added so much to the icing. It was perfect with the cake. I’m sorry I don’t have any exact measurements for this, but I was in a hurry when I was making this cake, so I had to eyeball my measurements!

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I’m not sure why… but this kind of cake batter appeals to me a lot more than the pourable kind, which you will see in the future chocolate bundt cake post. This is the Nordic Ware Crown Bundt pan, and from what I’ve read, it is a 10-cup Bundt pan.

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I had some crumbling at the edges, but that was my fault. I didn’t grease the pan all the way to the edges because I wasn’t expecting the cake to rise that high. So the cake edges stuck when I was trying to get the cake out of the pan.

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It must be true. Icing makes everything better. This truly was a messy drizzling job I did on this cake, but it didn’t really matter. In fact, all my kids wanted the slices with the great big globs of icing. Maybe I should paint the icing on so that it will spread out more evenly.

This cake was so good that it was gone by the end of the next day. It was gone so fast that my oldest Corran hardly got to eat any of it and that is why he asked me to make another bundt cake.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would like the flavors of key lime and mint in one cake since to me, they don’t really go together, but Lanett, my friend, you picked a winner. Thank you for introducing me to a great flavor combination that I am definitely going to try again!

Key Lime-Mint Bundt Cake with Key Lime Icing

  • Servings: not enough... I mean, 14-16 slices
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Please do visit or try the original recipe if you can. I only adjusted the recipe according to what I had on hand and for certain flavors.

Adapted from Mojito Bundt Cake by Jennie at One Sweet Mess

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp rum extract or vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp mint extract
  • zest of 3 key limes (I only had 1. Use 3 if you have them!)
  • 1/4 cup of key lime juice
  • 1 cup milk

For the Icing:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp key lime juice (add a little bit at a time until consistency desired)
  • 1 tsp heavy cream or milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 or 12-cup bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or using a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next.

Add the extracts, key lime zest, and key lime juice. Stir just until combined.

Beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with the 1 cup of milk. Finish with the dry ingredients. Mix until you have a smooth batter and there are no streaks of flour. Make sure you reach the bottom of the bowl.

Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared bundt pan. Smooth the top of the batter and bake for 60 minutes on the middle rack, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool cake on a wire rack for about 10-15 minutes before removing from the pan. After removing the cake from the pan, allow the cake to cool completely before decorating with the icing.

Icing directions:

In a small bowl, combine 3 cups of powdered sugar with the 1 teaspoon lime juice and 1 teaspoon heavy cream or milk. Add key lime juice and/or heavy cream a 1/2 teaspoon at a time to powdered sugar until icing reaches your desired consistency. Drizzle or pour onto completely cool bundt cake.

 

 

Pi Day Pie: Chocolate Truffle Pie in a Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust

Since today is 3/14, of course I had to make a pie for pi day. I mulled over a few pies before I started on one. Lemon meringue? Chocolate custard tart? Does a tart count as a pie? Shepherd’s pie?

Well, I had leftover chocolate chip cookie dough in the fridge… and realized that maybe I could use that as a pie crust! So next I needed an easy filling. There is a pie my sister-in-law makes that is yummy and chocolatey called chocolate truffle pie.

I won’t say much about actually making this pie since it is just to celebrate pi and math in general. If you’d like the recipes, they are at the following links.

Chocolate Truffle Pie

Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

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This is the cookie crust before I baked it. It looks just like a giant cookie.

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This crust looked so yummy after baking that I had a hard time resisting eating it! The dough puffed up a little in the middle so I tamped it down a little. It looks like I didn’t need to since the filling didn’t fill this pie pan up as much as I thought it would.

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This is how you try to do props for food photography (or the sad attempt) when you have kids, are homeschooling them, and just fed them lunch. Some day, I will learn to take decent pictures of my baking. Someday!

In the meantime, I hope everyone had a lovely pi day!

-Lynn

P.S. I have no idea if the cookie crust worked out. We won’t find out until after dinner!

Maple Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Bundt Cake

It is not completely obvious within my blog posts about baking, but a lot of my posts are requests from my kids. Since they eat most of what I bake, I try to make sure it is something they will like. Unless it’s macarons… I don’t really want them to eat all the macarons.

This bundt cake flavor comes courtesy of my son Matthias. I think he was wanting a flavor similar to a maple frosted donut. I certainly did my best to fulfill his request!

I know that bundt cakes LOVE to stick to pans, so I thought I’d also mention my technique for greasing my Nordicware bundt pans. This particular pan is the 10 cup Heritage pan. I also have a smaller 6 cup Heritage pan, but I haven’t used that one yet.

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To grease your bundt cake pan and hopefully end up with a flawless bundt pan flip, here is what you need:

1 Tbsp of very soft butter, but not melted. If your butter is right out of the fridge, you can microwave it for about 15-20 seconds to soften it enough.

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1 pastry brush

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I apologize for my very ugly pastry brush in this pic. It needs to be retired. In fact, we were at a restaurant supply store a few weeks ago and I bought a new nylon pastry brush and a gorgeous stainless steel worktable! By the way, restaurant supply stores are awesome. I could have stayed there all day! I just didn’t have the new brush at this time so had to use the ugly old one. I have tried a silicone brush but it just couldn’t get into all the details of the pan. So I ended up with this.

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Lesson learned: use only a traditional pastry brush or a nylon brush for greasing bundt cake pans.

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Usually, I find greasing pans tedious, but somehow greasing my bundt pans is now fun! I guess it is because I feel like I’m painting. Which is basically what you’re doing! You paint the butter into the pan using the pastry brush, making sure to get into all the little nooks and crannies. I think I may try this method with my plain round cake pans.

Then comes the flouring part. I usually just toss a random amount of flour into the pan. Probably close to a tablespoon or two. Shake the pan at an angle over a sink, turning the pan to get the flour all around the pan and onto the butter.

After tapping tapping tapping,  your pan will look like this.

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I think I might be weird because I don’t like it when my pan looks like this after flouring. So I turn it upside-down over my sink and tap the edge of the pan on the wall of the sink. All the excess flour falls right out into the sink and you end up with a clean finish.

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I know this seems like a lot of trouble to go to for greasing and flouring a bundt pan, but this method hasn’t failed me yet.

Now to the actual cake!

I decided on a cinnamon swirl coffee cake with a mascarpone maple frosting. I modified both recipes quite a bit so I will be posting them at the end. The original recipes are from Allrecipes.com and The Local Palate.

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Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).

First, we begin as most cakes do, with beating the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Then, add the eggs. The texture of the batter might worry you a little at this point. (Why does it look curdled?) But it all smooths out at the end.

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Then, add the flour and raising agents.

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I like the look of this type of cake batter better than the very liquidy type. Maybe I’m just a big fan of pound cake. Spoon half the batter into the bundt pan.

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Sprinkle all the cinnamon mixture over this first layer.

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Spoon the other half of the batter over the cinnamon mixture and swirl a knife through it. I made the mistake of using a spatula. That didn’t work so well. I should have used a knife.

Bake for 8 minutes in the preheated oven. Then, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake for 40 more minutes.

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When a tester comes out clean, your cake is done.

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Now to the moment of truth! But not for another 10 minutes. I leave the pan on my stovetop or a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes before tipping out the cake. But… you don’t want to wait too long. It seems that bundt cakes come out better if the pan is still warm.

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This cake came out a little rough around the edges but I think that is because I didn’t spread the batter into the pan as well as I should have. I think it looks a lot like a cruller though this way!

I had a whole container of mascarpone cheese in the fridge so I went for a full mascarpone frosting instead of mixing it with cream cheese. My kids now have a name for this frosting: maple donut frosting. I piped the frosting onto the cake using the star tip  of my Wilton Dessert Decorator. Usually, I can’t use this for decorating because the tips are so huge, but it worked well for this cake.

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Note: Apparently, regular Wilton tips can be used with this decorator. I haven’t tried those yet. Will have to see how they work.

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As you can see, I didn’t have much of a swirl…. probably because of my attempt to use a spatula instead of a knife to swirl the batter. This cake was very, very yummy though and certainly didn’t last long! I think it was completely gone the next morning after breakfast!

I wasn’t completely happy with the frosting. It’s a little too shiny (or maybe the word is oily-looking?) for me, but my kids loved it. At least they were happy with it!

-Lynn

Here is the recipe!

Maple Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Bundt Cake with Maple Mascarpone Frosting

Not everyone will have the maple sugar for the cinnamon mixture, so it can be left out. Also, because of the mascarpone frosting, I would not feel comfortable keeping this cake on the counter for more than a day.

Ingredients

Cake Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp maple extract or flavoring
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Swirl Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp maple sugar (optional)

Maple Mascarpone Frosting Ingredients

  • 10 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 tsp maple extract or flavoring
  • 9 ounces powdered sugar, about 2 cups

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan. See post above for method if needed.

Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. The mixture will be very pale. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each one before adding the next. Mix in the vanilla extract and maple extract or flavoring.

Combine the flour, baking soda,and  baking powder in a medium bowl. Mix the flour mixture into the cake batter alternatively with the 1 cup of sour cream. End with the dry ingredients. Spoon half the batter into the prepared bundt pan.

Mix 1/4 cup brown sugar with the 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon and 1 Tablespoon maple sugar. Sprinkle the cinnamon mixture over the batter in the bundt pan. Spoon the remaining half of the cake batter over the cinnamon mixture in the pan. Swirl through the batter once or twice with a knife.

Bake in the 400 degree F (205 degree C) oven for 8 minutes. Then, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake for 40 minutes more, or until a tester comes out clean.

Let the cake cool on a rack for 10 – 15 minutes before tipping cake out of the pan. Allow to cool completely on the rack before frosting.

Mascarpone frosting directions:

Using a stand or hand mixer, combine the 10 ounces mascarpone cheese and 2 ounces butter in a large bowl until blended. Add the 1 teaspoon maple extract or flavoring and beat until combined.

With the mixer speed on low, slowly add the 9 ounces powdered sugar (2 cups) to the mascarpone mixture. Beat until smooth. Store frosting in the fridge until needed.

Decorate the bundt cake with the frosting as desired.

 

15th Anniversary Trip to Las Vegas, NV: The Food

Josh and I were married 15 years ago on January 5th, 2002, a few months after 9/11 and the day after Josh’s 22nd birthday. That certainly was a crazy time. It was even crazier a year later. We had been planning to go to Las Vegas for our 1st anniversary, but the military changed our plans. We hadn’t had any concrete plans to go to Las Vegas anyway; maybe we kind of knew that we would not be able to go.

For the next 14 years, every anniversary, we threw around the idea of trying to go to Las Vegas, but it never happened until this year. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect, since we had never been there, but we ended up having a great time!

We really enjoyed just walking around and looking at all the hotels and shopping, but I think the food is what we enjoyed most.

Our first night we went to a restaurant near Paris called hexx. This is also where I discovered the only bean-to-bar chocolate seller in Nevada. I buy from Nibble here in Southern California, but hexx’s chocolate was about equal in taste and texture.

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Antipasto salad

The food here was very good, but also very expensive! It was worth the price though because everything tasted delicious and fresh. We thought about coming back but later decided we would try the buffets for the next two days.

The buffets actually worked out well for us. We would eat breakfast at our hotel (loved our free breakfast at our hotel!), head out for the morning to play tourist, skip lunch or eat a light snack (one day our light snack was macarons!), and then go to a buffet for dinner.

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The macarons we bought from Le Macaron, a shop in the Grand Canal Shops in the Venetian. Flavors going clockwise starting at the top right: Passion fruit, Hazelnut praline, Basil White Chocolate, Lavender White Chocolate, Orange Chocolate, Salted Caramel. $17.40 for 6. I think the Salted Caramel had gone bad by the time we ate it. The Basil White chocolate was good, but the Lavender was too lavender-y. I think my favorite might have been the Passion fruit.

I did some research before we went to any buffets and had read a lot about Wynn hotel’s buffet. It lived up to all the reviews. I wish I had taken pictures of the actual buffet, but it went on forever! And the dessert buffet was like a dream.

The hotel itself was gorgeous inside. So many flowers everywhere!

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A lot of the Christmas decor was still up even though it was a few days after New Year’s.

We ate too many desserts as you can see, but they were so small that we didn’t feel too bad about eating all of them! Each one was beautifully presented.

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The next day we ate at Bellagio.  They were still running their holiday pricing for their buffet so it cost us quite a bit to eat there.

We wanted to see the gardens at Bellagio, but I think they were in the middle of changing from their Christmas decor.

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There was a LOT of seafood at the buffet, so that is what I ended up eating! We don’t eat seafood at home since I am the only one who really likes it.

The dessert buffet had just as many (or possibly more!) beautiful desserts as at Wynn. There were also cannoli! I haven’t had one of those in such a long time. We used to live in Philadelphia when I was a kid (when the base was still there), and I still remember the cannoli my mom and dad would buy for us!

After our dinner at the Bellagio, we had to watch the dancing fountains. We got to watch them twice!

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We were only in Vegas for a few days so we did not get to try any other restaurants. I guess that just means we will have to go back someday!

-Lynn

 

Pomegranate Curd

We had about half a bottle of pomegranate juice left in the fridge. Instead of just drinking it, what did I want to do with it instead?

It’s a little bit crazy, but I wanted to make pomegranate curd!

Of course, I googled it and found a recipe that looked like it would work for me at A Cookie Named Desire. There is something about a blog that has really beautiful pictures that I just love. Right now, I’m afraid my pictures won’t be very pretty, but they do help a post to be interesting! I’m also one of those people who likes to know what my ingredients are supposed to look like while I’m working through a recipe. Even a few pictures of the process helps me with that.

(Quick Note: I’ve found though, that in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbooks I don’t need any pictures. She describes her recipe methods so well and so concisely that it is very clear what your ingredients will look like after each step. I love her cookbooks so much. I think eventually I will buy them all!)

Pomegranate Curd Recipe

I used POM juice since that is what we had in the fridge. We also happened to have pomegranates in the fridge, but pomegranates are so difficult to juice (much like passionfruit) that we tend to use our pomegranates for eating or cooking.

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The method is similar to when making lemon curd. I’m still a bit of a novice at making any curd, so I still had to push mine through a sieve when it was done.

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This curd took a little bit longer than I expected to thicken. It’s so crazy how quickly it happens though! One second you feel like you’re stirring juice and the next you’re pulling it off the flame and hoping you didn’t ruin it!

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I actually don’t think the color is that appetizing, but boy, does this curd taste yummy! I’m not sure what I could have done to “brighten” the color any. It almost looks like the brownish side of burgundy.

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This recipe made a one pint jar of pomegranate curd. We have used it on scones, biscuits, and pancakes. We still have a little bit left, and I am hoping to use it as a filling in lavender macarons.

-Lynn

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Ever since I got my ice cream maker a few months back, my children have been asking for chocolate ice cream.  While I could have been boring and made just that, I decided to add a little something to the ice cream.  Personally, I think peanut butter tastes great with chocolate, and I don’t think I am ready to put chunks in my ice cream yet so I attempted to do a peanut butter swirl.  I ended up with something less than a swirl, but the ice cream itself is amazing.

Since it is more a frozen custard than ice cream, it is very rich.  I can usually eat a lot of ice cream, but even I had problems eating what I gave myself.

I created a double batch since there are 7 of us.  If you need or want less, you can easily cut the recipe in half.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

  • Servings: 2½ quarts
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1½ cups cocoa powder
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar (I used raw sugar)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  • In a saucepan over medium heat whisk together cream, half and half, and cocoa powder.  Bring to simmer. Stir in chocolate chips until melted.  Take off heat and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and egg yolks until pale yellow and thickened.
  • Add ½ cup of the cream mixture to egg mixture while continuing to whisk.  This will keep your eggs from cooking. Repeat two more times, adding ½ cup cream mixture to egg mixture.
  • Add the egg mixture to the remaining cream mixture.  Put back on stove over medium-low heat, bring to a simmer. Continue to stir until mixture thickens and coats the spoon.
  • Remove from heat, and pour through a mesh strainer to remove any lumps.
  • Add vanilla.
  • Place mixture in ice bath to cool to room temperature.
  • Cover with plastic wrap, making sure to have plastic wrap on the custard to prevent a skin from forming as it chills.
  • Chill in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, over night is best.
  • Make ice cream per your maker’s directions.

 


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We ended up serving the ice cream with one of the chocolate chip cookies that Lynn made, and some of our home made hard shell.

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-Joshua