Thyme Roasted Peach and Mascarpone Ice Cream with Toasted Brioche Crumbles

It has recently come to my attention that my opinions on cheese are absolute trash.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not for lack of trying. In fact, at one point in my life, I considered myself something of a (self-proclaimed) cheese connoisseur.

Having a French brother-in-law has many perks, one of which being that you can claim to be an expert on all things French simply by association.

I knew about macarons, pain au chocolat, and Orangina long before they were a blip on any food trend analyst’s radar, and I relished the (imagined) feeling of sophistication and empowerment these insights gave me amongst my then-social circle of giggly, 19-year old girls and flamboyant gay men. I fancied myself a trendsetter, and spent hours daydreaming about the illustrious career I’d have as a food writer for Saveur or National Geographic, working remotely from various French estates and lavender farms, stunning the world with my revolutionary views on food, politics, and platform wedges.

Cheese was one of these aforementioned French things about which I felt a strange sense of superiority. Like, oh, you think you’re hot shit with that brie, you biotch? You DON’T EVEN KNOW about all the cheeses I’ve had! (I would say angrily, as I stuffed cubes of Wisconsin Cheddar into my mouth).

In college, I made a habit of purchasing blocks of Fromager d’Affinois from the gourmet market every so often and was confident that this qualified me as a bona fide foodie (mind you, this was circa 2008, when the word foodie didn’t even really exist yet). I wish I could say that with this magnificent cheese I hand-crafted a charcuterie worthy of a thousand likes on Instagram, but 1) Instagaram was not a thing yet (as we’ve already established, I am old) and 2) my girlfriends and I were too busy getting drunk on Arbor Mist to focus on on our culinary pursuits.

One day out of boredom, I did some googling on my beloved Fromager d’Affinois to learn more about its history for my own self-learning (read: so I could tell other people about it and act smart). But the more I googled, the more I made a startling realization: my “fancy” cheese that I’d been eating all this time was an extremely close cousin to…get ready for it…Basic. Bitch. Brie.

I was crushed. All this time, I thought I was cultured and worldly, that I had a certain je ne sais quoi, but in reality, I was as basic as any Arbor Mist-chugging, World Market-frequenting, naive college girl. It’s like thinking you’re a fine aged Camembert but really you’re barely a step above Taco-Flavored Shredded Cheese Blend.

Fast forward to present day. It’s the second year in a row that Hubs and I were lucky enough to score some incredible, juicy Georgia peaches from The Peach Truck, and I knew I wanted to step outside of my ice cream comfort zone since last year I kept it classic with Buttermilk Peach Crumble. I’d always wanted to make a cheese-flavored ice cream ever since I saw that the infamous Salt & Straw has one on their menu in Portland. However, their version has goat cheese, and I am NOT about that life.

(Just to clarify, I DESPISE goat cheese with the fury of a thousand suns because it’s TERRIBLE and tastes just like a barn smells and I invite you all to PLEASE for the love of God revisit your opinions on goat cheese because it’s the absolute WORST and I know you’re all lying about liking it).

Anyhow.

I did some investigative research (aka I scrolled endlessly on Pinterest) and it seemed like Mascarpone cheese was a nice, mild complement to summertime fruits, peaches included. I was decided.

(Ugh I KNOW, I’ve been talking about French cheese all this time and now I suddenly go Italian. But bear with me! This story has a happy ending, I promise).

I set out to find mascarpone, and I was feeling vindicated when I couldn’t immediately locate it at my typical network of local grocers (if it was hard to find, it had to be fancy, right?)

Finally, I found a container of Mascarpone adjacent to the Crème Fraiche in the “Specialty Dairy” aisle at my favorite gourmet market (Crème fraiche! It’s next to a fancy French thing! I am KILLING this!).

Then, I noticed one small thing.

On the label, below the word Mascarpone, was listed a small phrase in parenthesis.

It said, in bold typeface: ITALIAN CREAM CHEESE.

Cream cheese?

In that moment, all of my Fromager d’Affinois insecurities came rushing back. I was about to make my fancy savory ice cream…with CREAM CHEESE?!

After a moment of crushing defeat, I picked my spirits back up. Cheese Insecurities may have destroyed Lindsay in Her Twenties. But Lindsay in Her Thirties? Nah. You can’t take that girl down so easy.

I take full responsibility for my trash cheese opinions. I like my mac and cheese with a healthy dose of Velveeta, and I think fried mozzarella sticks are low-key culinary genius (and coincidentally, also very delicious when served with Arbor Mist).

(You can take the girl out of Brimfield, but apparently you can’t take Brimfield out of the girl #shoutouttomyhometown).

Cream cheese or not, this ice cream is delicious. The thyme gives this such a beautiful flavor profile (please note: talking about “flavor profiles” more than makes up for my love of Kraft Singles), and the peach ripple throughout adds some brightness to the sea of rich mascarpone and vanilla in the base.

And here’s the kicker – swirls of toasted brioche crumbles. Because when you’re a basic biotch posing as a classy broad, NOTHING gets you going more than the words “on a toasted brioche bun.”

Behold: my attempt at a fancy, cheesy, artisan ice cream. It’s rich, it’s creamy, and it’s the perfect compliment to the last of late summer’s peaches.

Happy scooping 🙂

Thyme Roasted Peach and Mascarpone Ice Cream with Brioche Crumb

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

Yield: 1 Quart

Ingredients:

3 ripe peaches, cut in half

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons sugar

Honey for drizzling

3 sprigs of fresh thyme

¾ cup sugar

4 egg yolks

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

1 cup mascarpone cheese

1 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

2 to 3 slices of brioche bread

1 tablespoon of butter

Directions:

Make the Thyme Roasted Peach Jam:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a pan covered with parchment, place peaches pit-side up and cover each with a sprig of thyme. Drizzle with honey (add more or less depending on the sweetness of your fruit). Roast for 30 minutes or until soft to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
  3. Remove pits and skin, and then combine with sugar and vanilla in a blender and puree until mostly smooth. Store in fridge until ready to freeze ice cream.

Make the Mascarpone Ice Cream:

  1. Whisk together the eggs and sugar until frothy and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine cream and milk over medium heat and cook until it just starts to steam (you don’t want it to boil).
  3. When cream and milk mixture is thoroughly heated, remove from heat and slowly whisk in to the frothy egg and sugar mixture you made in Step 1. Whisk furiously as you pour in the cream mixture to prevent your eggs from cooking.
  4. Once all of the cream mixture has been whisked into the eggs, return the combined mixture back to your pot and continue to cook over medium heat until it thickens, stirring often. Once the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of your spoon or spatula, it’s ready.
  5. Strain mixture through a sieve to catch any clumpy pieces of eggs that may have formed.
  6. Stir in the mascarpone and vanilla until fully combined. Place in the fridge overnight, or for at least 4 hours. (I like to chill my bases overnight – it seems to create a fluffier churned ice cream in the end).

Make the Toasted Brioche Crumble:

  1. Preheat oven to 250.
  2. Lay slices of brioche straight on the rack, and toast in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until tops are beautiful and golden.
  3. Allow the toasts to cool, then pulse in a blender or food processor until you have medium-sized crumbs.
  4. Melt butter and drizzle into crumbs; mash it all together until you have something resembling crumbled cookies. Set aside until completely cool and you’re ready to put together your ice cream.

Put it all together:

  1. Freeze ice cream according to manufacturer’s instructions on your ice cream maker.
  2. Once frozen, swirl in layers of brioche crumbs and roasted peach jam. Transfer to a storage container and freeze overnight, or for at least 8 hours. For an extra luscious occasion, serve next to a freshly roasted peach.
  3. Enjoy!

Mint Chocolate Chip Affogato

Like most of my self-important creative endeavors, today’s post began in the typical fashion – with overwhelming anxiety accompanied by healthy doses of insecurity and skepticism. As I embarked on what is about to be the FOURTH anniversary post for my humble little blog, I was daunted by the task in front of me.

If you’ve followed me since the beginning, you are aware that historically, birthday posts for my blog generally haven’t gone all that well. And by “all that well” obviously I mean “resulting in flaming piles of miserable defeat and regret.”

In Year 1, I had this crazy idea that for each blog anniversary, I’d “get back to my roots” by featuring my favorite childhood flavor, mint chocolate chip, in some sort of fanciful way. But usually, this self-imposed creative guardrail, in addition to the sheer pressure of something as significant as a blog birthday, has resulted in some sort of emotional fallout. For example, there was the Great Ice Cream Cake Disaster of 2015, and the Photo Shoot Failure of 2016, to name a few. It never fails – every single year I have some sort of birthday-related meltdown, and the blog becomes what a fun creative hobby shouldn’t be – full of dread and self-doubt.

This year, I commenced my creative process in the usual way, with a blank Word doc, a bag of chocolate chips, and very carefully placed optimism. Fast-forward an hour later, I’m out of snacks, have no viable ideas, and am full-on EVERYTHING I DO IS AWFUL AND I’M THE ABSOLUTE WORST EVER.

Sometimes when I’m in Meltdown Mode, my husband will take the bait and offer empty words of comfort, which truly is what every functioning psychopath like me wants to hear.

“Oh honey, but you’re so awesome and wonderful! You are a delightful unicorn of ice cream blogging and the whole world will love you!” (Okay, so maybe I’m paraphrasing/fantasizing just a wee bit).

But then other times, when I’m in the midst of my downward spiral, Hubs serves me some much-needed Tough Love with a massive spoonful of Objectivity. This was one of those times.

“So then don’t do it,” he said. Don’t do Mint Chocolate Chip. Nobody’s making you do it. Besides, you can’t possibly think of a new mint chocolate chip recipe every single year.”

His words echoed through our quiet Ohio home like a clap of thunder in the darkness. And it was just the spark I needed to get started.

I was presented with my challenge, and like any good Midwestern girl of Eastern European descent, I didn’t back down. I am the Michael Phelps of ice cream blogging, and nobody I REPEAT NOBODY can stop me. I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

…But then, I decided to stop working.

Now that I’m the big 3-0 and essentially on the cusp of my Senior Years, I’m trying my upmost to relieve myself of this crippling anxiety and incessant worry I have about failure and Things You’re Supposed To Be Doing By This Age But Aren’t. Looking back on my twenties, I wasted so much time on my insecurities and over-analysis of every. single. thing. that sometimes I think I missed out on all the FUN that life has to offer. So, I’m taking small steps to formally Chill The Eff Out and figured the blog is a great place to start.

Instead of coming up with an overly complicated recipe that took an entire weekend to make and shoot, I did what I wanted to do. Something spur of the moment, fun, and most importantly, simple.

I decided to, as the young kids say, “treat yo self,” and indulged in some of my all time fave mint chocolate chip ice cream, made by the iconic Ohio-based Graeter’s. This stuff is seriously amazing and seriously summery – it’s unapologetically minty with giant fudge chunks that are more like melt-in-your-mouth truffles than traditional chocolate chips. Coincidentally, Graeter’s is also celebrating a birthday – its 147th. Yep, you read that right. Almost a century and a half of small batch, artisanal ice cream making. I can’t even wrap my mind around that. Original Hipsters? I certainly think so!

An affogato is something that I’ve had on my long list of Blog Ideas I’ll Probably Never Get To Because I’m Afraid to Photograph Them for far too long, so I figured, what better occasion than the fun, fearless Fourth Birthday of my blog to experiment with something new?

In its most basic form, an affogato is simply vanilla ice cream or gelato with espresso poured on top, but you can jazz it up however you like. You can also adjust the amount of coffee up or down based on your personal preference. Although tradition dictates that you use espresso, you can use any suitable coffee product as long as it’s strong (I cannot wait to try this with cold brew!).

So my friends, I present to you The Easiest Recipe I’ve Ever Made on This Blog. But never fear: it’s insanely delicious and refreshing. This thing makes a Frappuccino look like child’s play. It’s super refreshing on a hot summer’s day, and makes the perfect storybook ending to dinner on the patio.

Happy 4th birthday little blog! I love you even though you’re a teenager trapped in a toddler’s body. You make my life equal parts miserable and wonderful, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Happy scooping everyone! Thanks for sticking with me 🙂

Mint Chocolate Chip Affogato

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Yield: 4 affogatos

Ingredients:

1 pint of good quality Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

4 ounces of espresso, cooled to room temperature

Whipped cream and chocolate shavings (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place 2 small scoops of ice cream into 4 adorable bowls or glasses.
  2. Pour a single shot of espresso (1 ounce) over each bowl of ice cream
  3. Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, if desired.
  4. Enjoy!

Honey Butter Ice Cream with Sticky Bun Swirls

If you’ve spent any amount of time following this blog over the years, it probably hasn’t been too terribly difficult to ascertain the three general truths of my existence:

  • I love ice cream
  • I’m mildly to moderately dramatic
  • I have an absolute and unwavering adoration for Akron, Ohio (a.k.a. the best city ever in existence)

My love for Akron runs deep. It’s where I went to school, got my first real job, and met my husband. It has the best people, best parks, best burgers, and best basketball player(s)…but obviously I’m partial.

And now, Akron’s got another thing to add to its resume:

World’s best honey.

Honey? But don’t you get that on a farm? Surrounded by cows and flower and nature? Surely not in an urban center full of houses and shops and businesses?

Never fear, dear reader! I too, had these questions. And we’ll get to them, in a moment. Just not before I get to give you my typical longwinded and overly complicated assessment of the situation.

My husband works in Akron, and because he’s quite literally the Best Person Ever, he goes for walks on his lunch break and procures items from local businesses and surprises me with said items when he comes home (trust me, I know I’m spoiled rotten).

One day Hubs came home with a beautiful, deep amber bottle of honey from Akron Honey Company, and I was immediately skeptical. Sure, I love intriguing bottles of culinary items and anything that makes reference to Akron, but honey and I don’t exactly have a stellar history…

(And I’m sure you’re surprised I have a petty bone to pick with an entire food group).

It’s a long story, one that starts at McDonald’s as a six year old and ends in my kitchen during adulthood (as many of my stories do, strangely enough). I’ll spare you the nitty gritty details and give you the key highlights…

Like most good Midwestern children, there were few things in life that I looked forward to more than a Chicken McNugget Happy Meal. Because my mom was generally concerned about my health and wellbeing, I was only afforded  this pleasure about once a week or so. But during those occasions, my life was pure bliss. I simply cannot express the joy I felt dunking those little boot-shaped pieces of processed delicacy into the accompanying dipping sauces – I savored each moment!

Although many children my age experimented with several different sauces, I was a ride-or-die BBQ sauce kind of gal. As far as I was comcerned, this was the only real choice, and I never switched. NEVER. I was brand loyal.

One day, I just happened to be chilling with a friend when much to my delight, I discovered the prospect of fast food was more readily accepted in her household than mine, and before I knew it, I was on my way to Nugget Heaven. As we pulled around to the drive-through window and I got ready to request my tried and true BBQ sauce, I was interrupted by a horrifying sound – the sound of my friend ordering honey dipping sauce. Naturally, I was thoroughly and utterly appalled, but because at age six I already understood the importance of conforming to social norms to build healthy relationships with others in my peer group, I too orderd the honey dipping sauce.

I dunked my nugget, took one bite, and my life has never been the same ever since.

I’m not sure if it was the chicken nuggets themselves, or the undoubtedly low-grade honey, or the combo of the two. But I’d never experienced anything so horrifying. Regrettable. Awful. Deplorable.

Thoroughly disgusted, I never really had too much to do with honey from that day forward, because I assumed I just didn’t like (but in reality, it’s because NOBODY should be dipping nuggets in honey. Not even a six-year-old. Bleh).

After that first experience, I dabbled with honey every now and again, but always indirectly. For me, honey was never the star of the show…it was always the trusty sidekick in stable marriages like honey mustard, honey Sriracha, or honey peanut butter.

I’ve always wanted to love it, I really have. I mean, Winnie the Pooh eats honey exclusively and he’s so excited about it he can’t even wear pants, so it MUST be good. But alas, the joys of a honey-rich existence escaped me indefinitely.

And here I suddenly was so many years later, standing in the middle of my kitchen at the cusp of this major honey crossroads.

Hesitant, I licked a little honey off of my finger, and I was completely and utterly floored. It was unlike any honey I had ever had before – it had this rich, amazingly floral, almost savory flavor. Before I knew it, I had entered into a magical world of honeyed perfection as I devoured spoonful after spoonful.

As I started researching the Akron Honey Company and learning more about its background, I fell even more in love. The company’s apiary is smack dab in the middle of an (extra)ordinary Akron neighborhood, on a plot of land that was previously abandoned (hence the term “urban” honey. See? I told you I’d answer your questions eventually).

Rather than harvesting a bunch of honey at one time, the owner employs a microbatching method, meaning he harvests the honey in small batches (hipsters, take note of my use of the term microbatching). Aside from producing an amazing product, this company’s mere existence is contributing to the greater good of Akron – they’re out there making a difference, demonstrating that all it takes is hard work and a novel idea to make a huge impact on a city and its people.

I was hooked on this honey, and knew I needed to pay tribute to this awesome product with a similarly awesome ice cream concoction. I nearly crumbled from the pressure: do I go with something heartbreakingly hipster but slightly overdone, like a honey lavender or honey vanilla? Or do I go with my gut and make something ridiculously gluttonous?

You can probably judge from the title of this post that instinct won out. I’m a huge fan of honey butter (another stellar honey marriage), but honey butter alone didn’t feel special enough. As you guys know, I tend to prefer ALL THE THINGS in my ice cream, so I went a wee bit overboard and made homemade sticky buns then smashed them into a delectable swirl. This part totally isn’t necessary – just the honey butter ice cream is fantastic on its own, but the sticky buns add a layer of texture and interest to the finished product.

The result? A honey-licious (which may or may not be the title of my future autobiography) ice cream that’s equal parts chewy, sticky, salty, and creamy. With an extra hit of honey drizzle at the end, its the ultimate in comfort food.

I’m pretty annoyed that it took me this long to realize the joys of truly good honey, but I’m very much looking forward to making up for lost time this summer.

Urban honey? That’s where it’s at.

(Just not with chicken nuggets. Never that).

Happy scooping!

Honey Butter Ice Cream with Sticky Bun Swirl

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

Yield: 1 quart

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons butter

5 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

Pinch of salt (or to taste – I love this ice cream extra salty to balance the sweetness of the honey)

6 tablespoons honey

2 cups chopped sticky buns (store-bought or homemade)

Extra honey, for drizzling

Directions:

Make the Honey Butter Base:

  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until it bubbles constantly and turns a medium to dark amber color (about ten minutes). Pour through a strainer into a small dish and set aside.
  2. Combine egg yolks and sugar into a medium sized bowl and whisk vigorously. Whisk in your browned butter from Step #1 and set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream, milk, and salt until it just begins to steam, being careful it does not reach a simmer or boil. A little at a time, pour the warmed cream mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly until all of the cream is incorporated. Pour the warmed yolk mixture back into the saucepan, and continue cooking for ten minutes or so, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens into a custard (if using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, the custard should stick to the back; when you wipe your finger across, there should be a clear “path” through the custard).
  4. Once finished, strain your custard through a mesh sieve into a bowl or storage container. Stir in honey. Once combined, store mixture (covered) in the fridge until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.
  5. The next day, before churning your ice cream, be sure to taste the mixture and add more honey or salt if desired.

Make the Sticky Bun Swirls (aka “Choose Your Own Adventure”):

  1. Option #1: Find a sticky bun recipe that you love already, and make them!
  2. Option #2: Buy some sticky buns at the store!
  3. Option #3: If you’re like me and you just CANNOT handle dough/pastry creation of any kind but you still enjoy baking, make these ones that use store-bought phyllo dough. I know what you’re thinking, but let me stop you right there – because they’re amazingly delicious and so easy even an ice cream blogger can make them.
  4. Once the sticky buns are in your possession, eat one (or two), and then roughly chop a few of them up. Drizzle with extra honey, smash them around a bit, and set aside until ready to use.

Put it all together:

  1. Freeze the Honey Butter ice cream base in your machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. In your storage container of choice, layer ice cream, then chopped sticky buns, then more ice cream, etc. until your container is full. By taking the time to layer the ice cream like this, you’ll get a true swirl pattern once you scoop the finished product.
  3. Freeze overnight or until hardened (usually a full 8 hours). Before serving, drizzle with extra honey. Enjoy 🙂

Nut Dip Ice Cream with Spicy Caramel Sauce

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There are few occasions in life more nerve wracking than meeting your boyfriend’s parents mother for the very first time.

Luckily for me, my boyfriend eventually became my husband, so my now mother-in-law is stuck with me indefinitely (whether she likes it or not!).

But little did she know that that first meeting (as well as many subsequent meetings after that), were some of the most anxiety-ridden of my life. (Come to think of it, perhaps she DID know and simply delighted in my discomfort until I eventually came to my senses).

You see, my then-boyfriend hyped his mother as this tough-as-nails tomboy; a true badass that raised three rambunctious boys and could build stunning furniture from scratch that gives Restoration Hardware a run for its money. Not to mention, she’s a fantastic cook whose food is intensely craveable and comforting. Oh and she’s also smart and independent, and knows about things like finance, real estate, and taxes, because WHY WOULDN’T SHE. Renaissance woman, much?

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Before we met, I worried. A lot.

I worried because I really, really liked, er, loved her son (though I hadn’t told him yet). I worried because her approval meant so much to me. And I worried because on paper, we couldn’t be further apart. She, the badass, and me…the girly girl who worships hot rollers and may or may not have a different pair of Hello Kitty pajama pants for each season. The girl who couldn’t cook anything other than Buffalo Chicken Dip and boxed brownies, so that’s what her son and I had eaten for three weekends in a row.

(Note: a different story for a different time).

In all honesty, I don’t remember too much about the specific details of our first meeting, only that we all ate Italian food and I was NERVOUS AF to meet everyone (I forgot to mention that I also met his grandma and his oldest brother that night, because WHY NOT add to an already stressful situation by giving me more people to impress?!).

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I had my guard up all throughout dinner; only relaxing when his dad offered me a plate of fried ravioli and instinct took over. At the end of the night, I knew his dad and I were going to get along swimmingly due to our shared love of Things That Are Fried But Shouldn’t Be, but try as I might, I couldn’t get a great read on his mom. She gave me a hug, but I attributed this to general decency and politeness and nothing that I had done or said specifically to inspire such a reaction.

As I usually do, I overanalyzed the entire evening and made up a version of events in my mind in which I’d completely ruined everything, and thus I decided later that night on the comfort of my couch (Hello Kitty pajama-clad), that I’d make it my life’s mission to win over his mother. This decision set into motion a series of events and interactions in which I tirelessly sought her approval by being the best version of myself I could be (ie, the version of myself that I thought she’d like the most).

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Every time we saw his parents after that, I censored my true self. I took it easy on the hot rollers and winged eyeliner, and made it seem like I was adventurous and down for anything (when really I just wanted to lay around and eat snacks all day).

Eventually, all the masquerading really took its toll on me, and the stress culminated on one hot summer day in the sleepy beach town on Lake Erie where my future in-laws grew up.

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My then-boyfriend and his mother decided they wanted to go to the beach and walk out on the pier, which I saw as yet another opportunity to prove my worthiness and sense of adventure. Well, once we reached the pier, they decided we should scale the rocks, which hovered probably 12 feet or more above these menacing, crashing waves. I have an intense fear of heights and also drowning (did I mention I can’t swim? Because OF COURSE I CAN’T). I’m also 99% sure I was wearing Steve Madden wedge sandals, because sometimes when you’re a girly girl pretending to be casual THERE ARE CRACKS IN THE LINING and you forget that wedges aren’t actually reasonable footwear.

I didn’t want to do it. In fact, I was terrified. I wanted to cry (and I may have, just a little bit). But then I took a deep breath, feigned bravery, and did it. I scaled those rocks like my life depended on it.

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I didn’t do it for my future husband. Or for the innocent people on the beach who would undoubtedly see me fall to a certain death. I did it for her. Because she was the most important. And I didn’t want her to think I wasn’t good enough. Or worse, some sort of prissy pants.

It was then and there, on the edge of Lake Erie, that I said to myself, ENOUGH. The stress of fronting as a normal person was just too much, and I decided that I just needed to be my crazy self, Hello Kitty pajamas and all.

And you know what? From that moment on, my MIL and I became the greatest of friends. I stopped worrying that I would disappoint her and instead focused on getting to know her (and alternatively, letting her get to know me).

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Truthfully, writing this post was somewhat of a challenge because it’s hard for me to imagine our relationship as being anything other than it is now – which is totally open, comfortable, and crazy fun.

We have a lot more in common than I ever would have thought, including but not limited to our love of: trash television, fashion blogs, spicy snack food, shopping for oddball antiques, and of course – ice cream.

When I starting thinking about an ice cream that I could make in her honor, I immediately thought about an infamous nut and chocolate confection from a local ice cream shop lovingly known as the “Nut Dip.”

(The name always makes me giggle).

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The Nut Dip is from the Pied Piper, which is one of my favorite ice cream shops in Ohio. It’s where you can get amazing, old school treats, things like an Orange Twist and thick, malted shakes. The Nut Dip has layers of vanilla soft serve, chocolate syrup, and crispy, chocolate-covered nuts, all topped off with dallops of fluffy whipped cream and chocolate shell. It’s a delicious combo and fan favorite that the entire town of Huron, Ohio will line up for on a Friday night (I know this because I’ve been in said line before…and let me tell you it is worth the wait!).

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But, just a plain old Nut Dip Ice Cream seemed a little too boring for my MIL, so I decided to give it a touch of sass with some spicy caramel ribbons, inspired by her love for spicy snacks. The spice in the caramel comes from just a touch of chipotle chili pepper, and it’s rounded out with a healthy pinch of smoked sea salt. I swapped the chocolate syrup for hot fudge, and made my own “Magic Shell” which I then proceeded to dip my nuts in (tee tee) before allowing them to set in the freezer. The result was similar to a chocolate bark (see below), but with a more forgiving snap, perfect for layering throughout the vanilla ice cream base. The salty, chocolate-y nuts with the spicy caramel is bold, unexpected, and delicious.

It’s a Nut Dip for only the baddest of bitches 🙂

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So, I dedicate this post to my super awesome, tough-as-nails mother-in-law. But because you can’t actually put nails in ice cream, instead I made some spicy, badass caramel sauce. You can leave out the spice if that’s not your thing, just be sure to eat this ice cream while doing something hard-core.

Like scaling rocks…or trash talking with your MIL 🙂

Happy scooping!

Nut Dip Ice Cream with Spicy Caramel Sauce

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

Yield: 1 quart

Note: This recipe makes extra hot fudge, caramel, and chocolate nut bark. If you only want enough for this recipe, you may want to halve those amounts 🙂

Ingredients:

5 egg yolks

½ cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons high-quality vanilla extract

2 cups of mixed nuts (I used a mix of peanuts and cashews)

1 cup of Chocolate Shell

1 cup of Hot Fudge

For the Spicy Caramel Sauce:

1.5 cups of sugar

1/2 cup of water

1 cup of heavy cream

2.5 tablespoons of butter

1/4 tsp of ground chipotle chili pepper, or to taste

smoked sea salt, to taste (I used around a teaspoon)

Directions:

Make the Vanilla Ice Cream:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, lightly whisk your egg yolks and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream, milk, sugar, and salt until it just begins to steam. A little at a time, pour the warmed cream mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly until all of the cream is incorporated. Pour the warmed yolk mixture back into the saucepan, and continue cooking for ten minutes or so, until the mixture thickens into a custard (if using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, the custard should stick to the back; when you wipe your finger across, there should be a clear “path” through the custard).
  3. Once finished, strain your custard through a mesh sieve into a bowl or storage container. Stir in the vanilla extract until fully combined. Store mixture, covered, in the fridge until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.

Make the Nut Dip Bark:

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking liner. Spread the nuts onto the pan, then pour the chocolate shell over top. Place in the freezer until completely set, half an hour to an hour.
  2. Once set, chop the bark into rough pieces, and keep in a storage container in the fridge until ice cream is ready to assemble.

Make the Spicy Caramel Sauce:

  1. Add the sugar to a medium sized saucepan, then pour water over top; no need to mix together. Texture should be that of wet sand.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, and let boil until miture reaches a deep amber color and smells amazing (for me, this was about 15 minutes).
  3. Remove from heat, and VERY CAREFULLY begin whisking in the heavy cream, just a little at a time. The cool cream will cause a ton of hot steam to rise from the boiling sugar, which can be dangerous.
  4. Once all the cream is incorporated, stir in the butter until melted.
  5. Then, start adding the chipotle and smoked salt. I would start off slowly here with both and taste as you go. I found that about a 1/4 tsp of the chipotle was enough to give you a nice slow burn in the back of your throat, but wasn’t overly spicy.
  6. Let rest on the counter until cooled, then store in the fridge until it’s time to assemble the ice cream (leftover caramel will stay good in the fridge for up to three weeks).

Put it all together:

  1. Freeze the ice cream base in your machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Spread hot fudge on the bottom of your ice cream container. Then add a layer of ice cream, a layer of Spicy Caramel, a layer of Nut Dip Bark, then repeat. Layering this way ensures you’ll have fudge, caramel, ice cream, and Nut Dip Bark in every scoop once the ice cream is set.
  2. Move to a cute storage container, then freeze overnight or until hardened (usually a full 8 hours). Enjoy 🙂

 

S’mores Ice Cream with Graham Cracker Cones

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On its surface, this might look like just another standard run-of-the-mill If the Spoon Fits post. And certainly, it has all the elements: dark, messy photography, Millennial self-importance, mild to moderate senseless rambling, and of course, an overly complex and ingredient-heavy ice cream recipe.

But dig a little more deeply, and what you’ll find is a post that’s the cyber embodiment of my darkest insecurities, fears, guilt, familial pressures, and paralyzing perfectionism.

…Okay, so maybe I’m being just a leetle dramatic. But seriously, you guys, I can’t tell you how much this post has tortured me the past few weeks and even, months (gulp).

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First of all, I haven’t posted anything new on the ol’ blog since August, and the guilt alone has brought me to near tears on several occasions. This post has been sitting in “draft” status for nearly 6 weeks now, which produces a very special kind of anxiety in my life; the kind that creates 3am stomach aches and middle-of-the-workday regrets about avoiding my creative pursuits and allowing Corporate America to manipulate my free time.

But obviously, rather than just take an afternoon to finish the post, I’d rather spend two months waging psychological warfare on myself, then tell you all about it in hyper dramatic fashion (like I said, Millennial).

Secondly, I’m apprehensive about this post in general, primarily because s’mores flavored anything is so…overdone. I like to make things that are interesting, or uncommon, or at least what I think are somewhat special, and s’mores is one of the most ubiquitous of flavors. I’m feeling very suburban, basic, and insecure about this decision.

Third, s’mores is a really special flavor to my family and me, and I’ve thus self-imposed an impossible creative standard upon myself, which has resulted in crushing intimidation and unreasonable late-night doubts.

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I’m sure many families in America have fond memories of sitting around a campfire at some point, marshmallows roasting up to a perfect crisp, then smashing said marshmallows into a generous piece of Hershey’s chocolate. My s’mores memories are similar, but swap out a campfire for a toaster oven, and you’ve got yourself a bonafide childhood memory.

I feel a special sentiment towards s’mores because they are the first thing I ever made on my own. I loved watching the marshmallows puff up and crisp on the edges, and experimenting with different varieties of chocolates and toppings.

Culinary pursuits aside, s’mores are also one of the key glues that binds me to my French brother-in-law, Pascal.

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When Pascal first came into our lives so many years ago, I had never met a French person before. In fact, growing up in rural-ish Ohio, I don’t think I’d met anyone from outside my state before. I worried about what we would talk about; did he like ballet? Or Polly Pocket? Because at that time, those were my general areas of expertise, and unless a person shared those interests, I had no idea where to go conversationally.

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I don’t remember when or how, but at some point during Pascal’s first visit to Ohio, we arrived at the topic of s’mores. Although it was unfathomable to me, Pascal revealed that marshmallows and graham crackers were hard to find in Paris, and thus, he had NEVER had a s’more before.

I immediately had the reaction of someone who finds an injured bird on the street – an instant and overwhelming need to take care of him and show him the life he was missing.

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My mom proposed that I make him one of my special smores (disclaimer: nothing really that special about it other than the fact that I made it).

Pascal was SO excited. To this day, I still remember him sitting at the head of the table in the my childhood home, beaming with delight as marshmallow and melted chocolate covered his face.

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And I was beyond proud. That something I made, could make someone so happy. It never occurred to me that he could just be trying to please the little sister of the woman that he was trying to date and ultimately marry, but whatever. I didn’t really care. Because we had a S’mores Bond.

Unspoken. Everlasting. Unbreakable.

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I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the first time in my life that I made the connection between food and happiness and culture. At the end of this summer, when I started craving melty gooey chocolate and the taste of nearly burnt marshmallows, I knew it was time to face my fears and live up to the legacy that my family bestwed upon me so many years ago.

It was time for S’mores Ice Cream.

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There were many different directions that I could have gone for the base, but I opted for roasted marshmallow. Not only did I include blended roasted marshmallows in the base, but i also left chunks of marshmallows intact, which stayed nice and chewy and soft when frozen because of their high sugar content.

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I made my own chocolate chips so that they would have a nice truffle-like texture in the sea of marshmallow cream, and put together some make-shift salty graham cracker “cookie” chunks by mixing some butter, sea salt, and graham crumbs and melting it all together in the microwave. I then swirled these throughout my ice cream base so that every bite contained salty-sweet goodness.

The finishing touch? Super delicious and savory graham cracker cones.

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I invested in an ice cream cone maker early on in my blogging journey because I knew that I would get a lot of mileage out of it. However, if you don’t have a cone maker, you have a few different options: you can bake the cones like cookies and then shape them into cones while they are still hot, you could use a normal waffle iron and just eat the ice cream on top of waffles, or you could bake the cones as previously mentioned into little circles and then drape them on the bottom of glasses to create a “bowl” shape – edible ice cream bowl!

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I did my best with this post (more importantly, this ice cream), even though it was a little bit of an emotional roller coaster.

It’s a little bit like my family – super diverse, salty and sweet, a little bit messy, a little bit imperfect- but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Bon appétit! And happy scooping 🙂

S’mores Ice Cream with Graham Cracker Cones

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

Yield: Heaping 1 Quart

For the Ice Cream Base:

3 cups marshmallows (preferably mini, but normal sized works too!)

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup whole milk, plus 2 tablespoons

2 cups heavy cream

2/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Pinch of kosher or sea salt

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened

For the Chocolate Chunks:

1 cup chocolate chips or chunks

1 tablespoon vegetable or coconut oil

For the Graham Cracker “Cookies”

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons melted butter

Large pinch of salt, or to taste

For the Graham Cracker Cones:

1 whole egg + 1 egg white

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup white sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs

pinch of cinnamon

2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled to room temperature

Make the Ice Cream Base:

  1. Preheat your broiler.
  2. Prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper. Place the marshmallows on the prepared pan, and roast in your broiler for no more than 2 or 3 minutes. WATCH IT like a hawk. Seriously, don’t leave the room! You want toasted marshmallows, not burnt-to-a-crisp ones.
  3. Remove from oven and set aside. Place half in the jar of blender, and reserve the rest for later.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix two tablespoons of milk with the cornstarch until smooth. Set aside.
  5. In a large saucepan, combine milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, and salt, then bring to a rolling boil. Boil for 4 minutes exactly.
  6. After 4 minutes, remove the milk mixture from heat and gradually mix into your cornstarch and milk mixture that you made in Step 1. Add combined mixture back to the saucepan, and cook over medium high heat for about 1 minute, or until thickened and the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla and cream cheese. Once cream cheese is completely incorporated, allow to cool slightly (15 minutes or so). Then, add half the mixture to the jar of your blender with the marshmallows. Blend until completely smooth, then incorporate back with the rest of your mixture. Stir until combined, then move to an airtight storage container, and store in the fridge overnight (or for at least 4 hours).

Make the Chocolate Chunks:

  1. In a microwave safe dish, combine chocolate chips and oil and microwave on 15 second increments until fully melted.
  2. Spread melted chocolate on parchment paper, and chill until set, about 30 minutes.
  3. Once chilled, break into pieces or cut with a pizza cutter into medium or large sized pieces (really, your preference!). Reserve until you’re ready to make the ice cream (try not to eat them all while you’re waiting!).

Make the buttery Graham “Cookies”:

  1. Combine all ingredients into a microwave safe dish. Cook in the microwave for 30 seconds.
  2. Allow to cool, set aside.

Make the Graham Cracker Cones:

1. In a medium sized bowl, beat the eggs and salt until evenly combined, about 1 minute.

2. Add the sugar, and beat for 2 minutes, until combined.

3. Gently add in the 1/3 cup of flour, stirring until it is absorbed into the batter.

4. Add in the graham crumbs.

5. Add the melted butter, and stir until blended.

6. Add about 1/8 cup of batter to preheated waffle cone iron, and let cook until the waffle iron setting indicates that the waffle is finished. You want the cone to be a golden brown – if the waffle isn’t as dark as you would like it, feel free to leave it in the iron for a few more minutes (just make sure it doesn’t burn!)

7. Remove the waffle from the iron with a spatula and immediately place onto a hot towel. Use the towel to tightly wrap the waffle around a cone form, making sure you pinch the bottom of the cone so that ice cream cannot leak out in the future (Or, you can just add a mini marshmallow or some chocolate chips). Hold the cone around the mold for a few seconds to ensure it sets its shape, then place in a drinking glass or cone holder to allow it to cool.

(Finished cones should last a few weeks when stored in an airtight container).

Put it all together:

  1. Remove the ice cream base from your fridge and freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. During the last two minutes of churning, add in chocolate chips and extra toasted marshmallows that your previously set aside.
  3. When placing your ice cream into your storage container, alternate ice cream with layers of graham “cookies” to create a swirled effect.
  4. Freeze overnight until hardened, or for at least 6 hours.

Enjoy!!!!