BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Sticky Solutions

Presented with a challenge verging on an outright dare, it’s hard to ignore even the craziest, most curious idea. A recent request for an ice cream base that could be completed with interchangeable flavored syrups, however, took a bit more prodding and begging than usual. Though intrigued, I found myself less than enthused to explore that ambiguous concept. Non-committal to a fault, it’s near impossible for me to pin down a single “correct” method of solving any problem, so to suggest a sole base that could accommodate every flavor that gets thrown at it sounded preposterous. Every recipe is different, as I found especially true while developing Vegan a la Mode, a yet surely there could be some loophole that could allow equal success when the basic composition didn’t change. The one variable in the equation is the actual taste of the liquid sweetener, after all.

First things first, no ordinary simple syrup need apply for this job; only highly concentrated and intense solutions will fit the bill. Since they’re further diluted when mixed with non-dairy milk, it’s a good thing if they verge on too strong when sampled solo. As for the actual flavor, with ready access to culinary extracts and oils, your imagination is limit. Ideal for days far removed from any harvest when quality fruits are hard to come by, such a flexible approach finally turns ice cream into an accessible, all-seasons treat.

Need a bit of color to satisfy your hunger for eye candy? The clear liquid sugar is easily dressed up with any variety of natural food colorings or whole foods-based alternatives. Swap out some of the water for beet or carrot juice; blend the cooked and cooled mixture with a handful of fresh spinach until smooth; add a pinch of turmeric or ground annatto at any point in the process. There’s no excuse for bland treats, either in taste or appearance!

Ultimately, what came out of this sweet challenge is more of a formula- guidelines, if you will- than a hard and fast recipe. Feel free to continue exploring, adapting to taste, and inventing your own unique solutions. For the richest, creamiest texture, opt for full-fat canned coconut milk to complement your syrups, but take into account how that added flavor may (or may not) pair with the other flavors invited to the party.

Syrup-Based Ice Cream

Extra-Strong Syrup:

2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Water
1/2 Teaspoon Essential Oil, Candy Flavoring Oil, or 2 – 3 Tablespoons Baking Extract of Choice
Coloring (Optional)

Basic Ice Cream Formula:

2 1/2 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk
3/4 Cup Super-Saturated Simple Syrup
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Arrowroot
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

The procedure here really couldn’t be any easier. First, to make the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir briefly to combine. Set over medium heat and cook just until the sugar crystals have all dissolved. Remove the pan from the stove, add your flavor and color of choice, and let cool completely before storing in an air-tight bottle or using in your ice cream

Moving right along to the ice cream, in a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and whisk thoroughly to break up any lumps of starch. Once smooth, set over medium heat. Stir periodically and allow the mixture to come up to a full boil, at which point the liquid should have thickened significantly. Turn off the heat, let cool, and then stash in the fridge to chill for at least three hours before churning.

When nice and cold all the way through, churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the soft ice cream into an airtight container and let rest in the freezer for at least 3 hours before serving, until solid enough to scoop.

Makes 1 Scant Quart

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Sweet Souvenirs

Most people seek out symbolic or iconic knickknacks to commemorate their travels, but as one might expect, I’m not like most people. Rather, I go out in search of memorable edibles. A trip to the farmer’s market just a few blocks down the street, glowing from a bright but brittle winter sunlight, still has a shocking array of exotic, ripe, gorgeous produce, the likes of which can’t even be found in mainstream markets at home. For the first time in my life, I understood the hype around persimmons, which I wouldn’t have even bothered with if not for the generous samples offered by smiling vendors. Clearly, they know what the good stuff is, so you should take and eat whatever odd fruit they hand you.

Blisteringly hot chestnuts, cracked open with thinly gloved hands in nighttime Christmas markets are likewise an uncommonly good treat. Standing around with locals drinking gluhwein and laughing freely, tossing shells into the combination trashcans/tables, you can’t help but feel a bit of holiday cheer. Even that misshapen glass, filled with mint tea that’s approximately half sugar by weight, provides comfort when said gloves prove too thin to lock out the sub-freezing temperatures. Add in some willing and patient cohorts for company, and those will forever be some of my favorite moments in Germany.

That’s not to say that all of my souvenirs are of the intangible sort. Far from it- This compulsive impulse-shopper was in vegan heaven upon visiting the nearby bio (organic) market, immaculate but well-stocked with exotic natural treats. A poorly packed jar of shiitake streich just barely missed the plane, sadly being tossed after discovery, but less liquid goods like two carefully covered packs of stroopwafles made it through. A treat first introduced to me in the Netherlands over a year ago, it’s not a native German delicacy, but they have a damn good selection of accidentally vegan options. Packages that reassure “ohne milch” and “ohne ei” (without milk, without eggs) are a good place to start, but also be on the lookout for “honig” (honey) which is a common flavoring.

Still, questionably smuggled, accidentally vegan snack packs of 6 wafels only last so long around me, and I didn’t wait long before scheming up how to fill the void when all that remains are those empty wrappers.

Made on a pizzelle maker, the biggest road block in this recipe is simply acquiring the proper equipment. After that, the cookie batter is just a pour-and-stir affair, ready to turn into crisp wafels with just a minute or two on the hot iron. The very same recipe could just as easily be used to make ice cream cones, too; immediately roll up the hot but still pliable wafers around a cone-shaped form, and let cool to a firm, crunchy consistency.

It’s all about the stroop, or syrup, for the finished cookie sandwich, though. A chewy, sticky filling of buttery caramel is what glues the whole treat together, and makes it so utterly irresistible. Once cool, it will set up into a soft but still malleable texture, creating an addictive contrast between easily shattering cookie exterior and toothsome, sweet interior. One bite, and you’ll understand why it’s worthwhile to smuggle them across borders should you ever come across those illustrious vegan versions.



Stroopwafels

Wafer Cookies:

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Tablespoon Whole Flax Seeds, Ground
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
Pinch Ground Cinnamon
6 Tablespoons Margarine, Melted
2/3 Cup Water
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Caramel Stroop:

3/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
3 Tablespoons Golden Syrup or Maple Syrup
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

Begin heating you your pizzelle maker first, because the batter comes together very fast. Set out a wire rack to accommodate the finished wafers while you’re at it.

Sift together the flour, sugar, ground flax, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl, whisking lightly to combine. Mix the margarine, water, and vanilla briefly in a second container before pouring into the dry ingredients. Stir just enough to bring the batter together without any lumps.

Very lightly grease each side of the pizzelle iron. I like to use a small cookie scoop to ensure even sizes of all of my wafer cookies, but you can also just measure out about 2 – 3 teaspoons of batter per wafel. Try placing it slightly off-center on the iron, just above the middle, because the action of smushing the top iron down tends to spread it outwards. After securing the lid (usually there’s a latch, which I recommend employing for the thinnest, most even wafers) bake for about 30 – 60 seconds, until golden brown. Quickly pry the cookies loose with a thin metal spatula and transfer to your wire rack. Though floppy at first, they will continue to crisp up as they cool. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Once you have all of the cookies ready and waiting, you can move on to the filling. In a saucepan, stir together and boil the brown sugar, margarine, syrup, and cinnamon, until them mixture reaches the soft ball stage (234-240 degrees.) Immediately remove from the heat and waste no time in filling your wafers.

To assemble, spread 1 – 2 teaspoons of the warm caramel syrup over one of the crisp wafer cookies, and top with a second. Be somewhat sparing, as a little bit covers much more than you’d expect, and it tends to squish out the sides if you over-fill. Let cool completely before enjoying.

Makes Approximately 20 – 24 Wafers; 10 – 12 Finished Stroopwafels

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