Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Nook - The Perfect Scoop

The Perfect Scoop: Ice Cream, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz:

This cookbook comes to me at a very inopportune time - I'm trying to eat better, lose a bit of weight for swimsuit season and go low-carb.  But recently, we plugged in our big 'ol freezer in our basement, thus making a perfect excuse to freeze my ice cream canister that refuses to work in our kitchen freezer (see the sad post here).  And last weekend our air conditioning decided to take a little vacation, so homemade ice cream was the only thing that got us through the days with temps in the upper 90s.  So, maybe it was perfect timing.

It certainly is the perfect scoop, as the title promises.  The ice cream recipes in this book are all-natural (no weird ingredients at all).  There are classic recipes, like chocolate, as well as variations on that classic, like chocolate Philadelphia-style, Aztec "hot" chocolate, milk chocolate, Guiness-milk chocolate, white chocolate, etc.  So, you could make a tried & true favorite or branch out into the gustatory unknown, depending on your mood & occasion.  And there are some very unusual recipes in the book, like parsley ice cream, avocado ice cream, olive oil ice cream - I'm so curious to try all of them!  Don't worry, there's tons of everyday favorites here as well - chocolate, vanilla, peach, tin roof, etc.  And there are loads of recipes for frozen yogurt, sorbets & granitas too - but let's face it, it's all about the ice cream for the Bach family, so that's what our focus will be on!  If you try the other recipes, let me know how they are, please.  Based on the few ice cream recipes I tried, I bet the others in the book are excellent.

Speaking of, let me share the recipes we tried.  First up was vanilla ice cream.  This is a traditional, egg-yolk custard style ice cream, and it didn't disappoint.  The day I made it, the Bachsters had a friend over for a playdate & they all had a little bowl of the fresh-churned ice cream.  Their friend declared, in a satisfied sigh,  "this is delicious."  And she's quite picky, so there you go.  And it was delicious - rich, creamy, vanilla-y.  Just perfect.  I also made peanut butter ice cream.  This recipe was super easy, just put all the ingredients (no egg yolks this time) in the blender, chill & then churn.  It was very sweet (but not overly so) - I think a drizzle of hot fudge on top would have been heavenly.  I'll have to do that next time.  I also made a double batch (I'm learning we are double batch people) of chocolate for a game night we hosted last weekend.  My sister-in-law and her husband gushed over the ice cream, and were talking about it the next day at a graduation party we all went to.  (I think I know what might make a perfect little hostess gift next time we go to their house - a pint of yummy chocolate ice cream!)  And it was superb if I say so - rich & chocolatey, with a smooth texture & just the right balance of sweet & chocolate.  I'm making that one again for sure.

I've saved my favorite for last: coffee ice cream.  Whenever we go out for ice cream, I almost always get coffee (which is funny, because I'm not a coffee drinker).  The Bachsters have followed suit, and they usually get coffee ice cream too!  Even the author takes notice of this, writing that it's "one of the few 'adult' flavors that kids seem to like as much as grown-ups."  So true!

This recipe (a traditional custard with egg yolks - yes, we've used a ton of egg yolks recently) infuses the cream with whole beans - a rather clever way of adding the flavor, I think.  It was the best coffee ice cream ever.  I could have quite easily eaten the whole batch myself.

One thing I love about this cookbook is the author's witty introductions to each recipe.   Many of the introductions tell a little story about the recipe, or some component of it & often the stories are lighthearted.  So, this is a cookbook that's just fun to read, even if you never make any recipes (but really, how could you resist?).  I found the first chapter of the book, devoted to "basics" to be very helpful, so don't skip it if you do make the recipes.  There are also great chapters on sauces (I'll go there for that hot fudge recipe next time I make the peanut butter ice cream), mix ins (yummy nuts, pralines, etc) & vessels (like crepes, or cookies to make ice cream sandwiches).  But I never ventured to the back of the book, I was so enamored by all the ice cream recipes.  Next on my list?  Maple walnut ice cream, using our Ohio maple syrup we just purchased at a local farmers market; cinnamon ice cream this Fall with our pumpkin pie & apple crisp, as Lebovitz suggests; and anise ice cream, all for me, since no one else around here likes anise very much.  I'm going to pretend I'm in France while I eat it!

I borrowed my book from the library, but with over 235 pages of recipes, I think this is one I'd like to own.  As far as ice cream recipes go, it's the only one a home cook would ever need.  It's perfect!


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