Posts tagged ‘berries’

Chocolate Raspberry Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Despite the chilly breeze and overcast skies, I can’t help but see the promise of summer everywhere.

At Seastar Restaurant, I’ve been watching the glow of the sunset linger just a little longer each night, reflecting lilac and copper and gold across the downtown skyscrapers. Daffodils have sprung up beside every mailbox and lamppost. Cherry blossoms have burgeoned forth all across our neighborhoods, veiling the trees in the faintest blush-pink lace. Sometimes light breaks through the midafternoon clouds, diffusing through the classroom windows between spurts of rain, and I lean my head on my hand and dream of sunshine.

My urgency for summer began sometime in late January. Frost no longer edged the tips of our front lawn in the mornings the way it had all winter. One day I saw that the grass had grown thick and lush, the kind of grass that makes you think of summer camp and daisy chains and tie dyed tank tops. It was the kind of grass that makes you want to do cartwheels, just for that brief moment when your fingertips pass through that soft fringe of green.

It made me want to make ice cream.

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It was still too cold to legitimately make a frozen dessert, so I waited all through January and February. And although earlier this week the sky dropped a few forlorn flakes of snow, I couldn’t hold back any longer. I wanted ice cream, real ice cream that didn’t skimp on the cream and positively melted on your spoon between leaving the freezer and reaching your tongue.

Besides the freedom and the yellow plastic sunglasses and the short-sleeved walks into the evening, what I am looking forward to most about summer is the fruit. Peaches bursting out of their soft skins, handfuls and handfuls of glossy cherries, the hollow sound when you make the first cut through a watermelon. But with nothing but citrus really in season, I tried to think of another flavor that would satisfy.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I have never been a vanilla fan. A steadfast chocoholic, I don’t think I ever bought vanilla ice cream or asked for white cake. It’s only been recently that I’ve begun to see vanilla as something special. I have a stash of Nielsen-Massey vanilla, beans and extracts that I only save for the most classic and important desserts where it will “really count,” and I thought vanilla ice cream was the perfect way to make the beans shine.

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After two months of waiting, I couldn’t do it any longer. At 10 PM on a school night I turned on all the lights down the hallway to the kitchen and started to make the ice cream base. I picked a David Lebovitz recipe – there is nobody I trust more with ice cream – which was straightforward and simple enough. As I scraped the vanilla bean with my knife, the tiny seeds collecting like glittery black jewels, the smell of vanilla drifted into my clothes.

I didn’t waste a single seed, and the custard came together beautifully. Before putting it in the refrigerator to chill overnight, I tried a spoonful. Although the ice cream hadn’t been churned and was essentially soup, I was immediately floored. I had never had vanilla so intense, creamy and floral, somehow exotic. How could I have ever thought vanilla plain?

The next morning I was in the kitchen to pour myself a bowl of cereal when I decided I couldn’t wait until after school to finish. I poured the chilled ice cream custard into the ice cream maker to churn while I showered and got dressed. The custard had been good enough to drink, but after it was churned? It had the consistency of soft-serve, not yet firmed up, but it was so incredible. I even beckoned my friend C-, who I carpool with, into my house so that he could try a spoonful for himself before we rushed to first period.

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Even though my favorite ice cream flavor has been basil since I first made it two summers ago, I need to tell you all that this is without a doubt the best ice cream I’ve ever made. It might even be the best ice cream I’ve ever tried at all.

It’s unbelievably thick and creamy, smooth as marble and speckled with constellations of vanilla bean seeds. It has the texture of frozen custard – somehow “ice cream” doesn’t convey how soft and rich and gorgeous this ice cream is. If that weren’t enough, the vanilla itself seems to fill the inside of your mouth like a perfume, not just in the ice cream but in the very air around it. This ice cream will convert a chocoholic into a person who dreams in vanilla.

Wanting to give you more than just ice cream, I also baked some raspberry cocoa cookies that I’ve made a few times now. They’re little, gone in two bites, chewy in the center and crisp-edged. Made with a half cup of jam, they taste like thin brownie-cookies topped with raspberries. Ever since the first time I made them, I knew they would make a good ice cream sandwich.

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The sandwiches are delicious, but I have to admit, I prefer the ice cream purely as is. I can’t help it… I’m a vanilla person. :)

[On non-food related note, I feel the need to mention the new "(c) 17 and baking" text appearing on this week’s photos. I hate having to put watermarks on my photos. I think it’s ugly and distracting. I think food photography should be about food and the way food makes you feel, and the text seems so awkward. But my photos have been stolen and used without my permission twice in the last month, and I have reluctantly concluded that a watermark might reduce theft.

Photo stealers, this is disappointing for me. Boo on you.]

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March 12, 2010 at 9:10 pm 77 comments

Good Morning

In the same way that I follow a recipe, I follow a certain schedule in the morning. I don’t watch the clock and record how long I take to brush my teeth, but I have a couple things that I always do in the same order. Unfortunately, I usually spend too long doing some things. The very last thing I do before I run out the door is eat breakfast, but it often gets compromised for the sake of time. I brush my hair, pack my backpack, and suddenly my ride is at the door.

Some days I throw a handful of dry cereal into a Ziploc bag and hurriedly pour some soymilk into a travel cup, and then I eat the cereal on the go. Other days I’ll swipe an apple from the counter and eat it during first period. And some days – this is worst of all – I simply go without breakfast. Besides dessert, breakfast is my favorite meal, so those are the days to watch out for my grouchiness.

On the weekends, though, I like to savor breakfast. I love to wake up to the comforting weight of a dog at the foot of my bed, and the sound of the heater gently creaking. I walk down the hallway in my still-warm cotton pajamas and fluffy pink socks to find the kitchen bathed in petal-soft light, and I appreciate how still and how refreshing the winter mornings can be.

My parents wait for me to wake up on my own before starting to cook. Mom starts the coffee and I begin slicing oranges for fresh juice. We plan our breakfast. Our favorites are bagels with cream cheese and lox, pork chops, or eggs (sunny-side up and just a little bit runny, please.) But somehow, inevitably, we frequently end up at pancakes. Pancakes used to always fall to me the way that scones and muffins are considered my territory. But nobody is foolish enough to let me make the pancakes anymore.

There is a special place in my heart for pancakes, but they seem to hate me the most. In fact, my ineptitude at pancake-making is famous in my house. Some recipes are more forgiving than others, but pancakes have no sympathy for me. I’ve made whole-wheat pancakes that ended up a soggy clump on what I thought was a nonstick pan. I’ve burned and undercooked pancakes of all flavors and sizes.

Hands down the worst pancakes I’ve ever made were these blueberry-corn pancakes, and I don’t really have the heart to relive that particular story. I even felt sorry for our trash can as I scraped the curiously gritty and soggy pancakes into the garbage.

Like the determined teenage baker I am, I’ve never stopped trying. I always offer to make the batter and cook the pancakes. But my parents steer me to the table, ask me to set out the plates, or try to distract me with gems like “Why don’t you just relax?” and “Wouldn’t you rather have some bacon?”

You know they’re just trying to keep me from destroying breakfast for everyone. I guess you can’t blame them.

Now my mother is the one who makes the pancakes in my house, and they are far superior to mine. Whatever I am doing wrong, she avoids those pitfalls, and her pancakes end up light and fluffy.

With several overly ripe bananas browning on the counter, we decided to have banana pancakes for breakfast one Sunday. I was allowed to pick out a banana pancake recipe, but after that my mother took over. I juiced tangerines and then, unable to help myself, made a Triple Berry Maple Syrup with some frozen berries still in our freezer from summer.

I sneaked surreptitious glances at my mother as we worked, trying to uncover her pancake secret. At one point she commented, “The batter is a little thick,” but before I could stick in my nose she had fixed the problem, and I went back to simmering the maple syrup.

Ten minutes later I set the table and arranged the plates of food. The orange juice was tart and satisfying, the bacon still sizzling, and the maple syrup a deep, rich purple. We stacked our plates three pancakes tall, poured the maple syrup, and took the first triple-layered bite.

With a thick drizzle of Triple Berry Maple Syrup and small, sweet bits of banana, there was no denying that the pancakes were delicious. They weren’t dense – they were fluffy – but they were deceptively filling. I was halfway through my pancakes and was surprised by how full I was feeling. The banana flavor was also much more pronounced than I’d expected, though not in a bad way. They were just intensely banana-y, in a way that I couldn’t imagine a recipe intending.

I glanced over at Dad, who seemed to be having the same thoughts. We looked at Mom at the same time.

“How many bananas did this recipe call for?” He asked.

She took a moment to remember, then furrowed her forehead. “We didn’t have enough bananas, so I had to halve the amount it called for.”

“…Halve the amount?” I couldn’t even fathom what pancakes with double the banana would be like.

“Yeah. The recipe called for 3-4 cups of banana, and we only had 3 large bananas, which was 1 1/2 cups.”

What?

I picked up the recipe still on the counter, scanned the ingredients, and then began to giggle. “Mom,” I managed. “Not 3-4 cups. Just 3/4 cup of banana – you doubled the amount!”

We had a good laugh, but since the pancakes were delicious anyway, we didn’t dwell on the mishap. I only have two thoughts on the whole thing – first, it’s a good thing that this family loves bananas. Second, how unfair is it that I somehow manage to ruin any pancake I touch simply by following the recipe, but my mom can double an ingredient and end up with delicious pancakes? The mysteries of life.

And in all honesty, when we make these pancakes again, we will probably double the banana to 1 1/2 cups. They were just so good.

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December 16, 2009 at 9:16 pm 28 comments

Blueberry Coconut Cream Scones

Ah, summer… It’s filtered into everything, even school. I spend at least two periods a day outside, because even my teachers can’t stand being cooped up. We watch movies and do creative projects instead of textbook assignments, and I have never been so relaxed or felt so free.

Summer means reading lazily in the softest, greenest patch of grass.

Playing the radio as loudly as possible so I can sing along without being heard by the neighbors.

Picking fresh, full leaves of basil that beg to become fragrant green ice cream (coming soon, I promise.)

Summer means walking into the dusk in a short sleeved shirt, stargazing right on the cool driveway, and tucking plastic yellow sunglasses in my bag wherever I go.

It’s an energy that I have tried to capture in a photograph all week. But there are no words or pictures that can convey the feeling – I’ve learned to put down the camera and simply breathe in the sun.

Even in Seattle, summer means heat. It’s almost too much – for me, the ideal day is 65 degrees. With a gentle breeze. And a slightly overcast sky. Still, I can’t resist the hazy summer heat and find myself in the backyard more than the house.  But nothing can keep me away from the kitchen for long, and sure enough, I’m still baking away.

Oh, I am so lucky to be in love! With summer, with photography, with sugar, with my family. I hope you are all as happy and in love with life as I am at this very moment.

We had our first dinner outside last week. The day was so utterly lovely that we threw open every window and dusted off the old glass table. We passed around fruit salad and chicken, grilled with herbs grown in our own garden. We talked until twilight fell, and found that there is nothing quite like concluding a meal with lavender ice cream in sugar cones.

But first, we started the day with Blueberry Coconut Cream Scones.

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June 6, 2009 at 4:06 pm 31 comments

Under the Wing of Erin Cooks – plus Triple Berry Frozen Yogurt


Do you know Erin, the beautiful blogger behind Erin Cooks? Yeah, silly question.

It seems as if April is my luckiest month ever. There was my 17th birthday, and my first Daring Bakers challenge. And, most unexpectedly, a slew of kind comments that leave me smiling the whole day. Only last month I blogged about how I knew no one would read 17 and Baking, and that was fine with me. What a birthday gift!

I was matched with Erin for the Adopt-a-Blogger #3 event hosted by Kristen of Dine & Dish, where new bloggers get an experienced blogger as a mentor. “Experienced” is quite the understatement… Erin’s been blogging for 10 years. Her beautiful photography and pleasant, accessible writing style have won her quite a large following.

Erin’s Heart Shaped Peppermint Patties

Her recipes, too, look amazing… Raised doughnuts, Peanut Butter Ice Cream with homemade white chocolate peanut butter cups, and her favorite Thick, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. But it’s not all sweet. Erin also cooks dinner, breakfast, and appetizers; she cooks healthy, she travels, she reviews.

Despite all this, though, she’s down to earth. She emailed me right away, full of helpful tips and kind encouragement without a trace of superiority. (She even blogs about her disasters, a fact that I love!) I strongly encourage you to check her out. She is a fabulous mentor and an excellent cook. Erin, thanks for all your help!

Now… what do you do with a giant bag of frozen berries?

Triple Berry Frozen Yogurt!

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May 2, 2009 at 12:09 am 35 comments

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Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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