There were snow flurries in Atlanta today, the temperature is supposed to get down to 20 degrees tonight, and with winds whipping around at 15-20 mph, the wind chill will be within five degrees of zero.
Perfect weather for ice cream, right?!?
Well, in the shoebox, it’s always perfect weather for ice cream. We just love making ice cream (and we finally bought our own ice cream maker).
And ’tis the season for peppermint. So peppermint ice cream was our choice.
But we decided not to stop there, because Anne’s dad sent us a special gift:
These walnuts come from trees in the Trefethen Family Vineyards of Napa Valley. According to the included literature, many of the now vineyards in Napa Valley used to be fields planted with things other than grapes. When the Trefethen family purchased the old Eschcol Ranch back in 1968, there were several large walnut trees on the property.
To this day, the Trefethen family still has one of California’s largest walnut trees in the middle of their vineyard, and each year they send simple bags of walnuts to good friends.
So we thought, is there a way we could combine peppermint ice cream with walnuts? Sure, we could just throw them in the mix, but that seemed too easy and not fancy enough for these special walnuts.
Then we thought back to our Viking Cooking School experience and the little edible cups we made to hold the strawberry semifreddo. We used almonds in the class, so why not substitute walnuts? It was worth a shot!
Walnut Florentines (recipe from Viking Cooking School, substituting walnuts)
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1 tsp finely minced orange zest (we used tangelo)
- 1/3 cup cake flour
- 1/2 cup finely ground walnuts (2 ounces)
First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
We used our food processor to finely chop the walnuts. You could probably also do this in a coffee bean grinder, or – if you’re needing to get out some aggression – with a hammer.
Whisk together the flour and nuts, set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup, and orange zest.
Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, just until the butter and sugar are melted. Reduce heat to the lowest possible setting. Stir in the nuts and flour.
Onto a cookie sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper, scoop two separate heaping tablespoons of the mixture. Place the piles of mixture far apart, as they will spread a good bit while cooking. Using the back of a wooden spoon, gently spread each pile until they are about 3 inches in diameter, being careful not to leave holes.
Pop this pan into your preheated oven and set your timer for 8 minutes. You will have to make these florentines in several shifts, so leave the saucepan of mixture on the stove with the setting on low. If you have a large enough oven, you could try to do two pans at a time, but we just did one at a time.
After 8 minutes, or when they are nice and brown and bubbly, remove the pan from the oven and place beside it a muffin pan that is turned upside down. This muffin pan is going to serve as your mold.
Now this is where it gets tricky. You have to peel the florentines off the pan at just the right time – not too early, or they will fall apart; not too late, or they will crack when you try to mold them. We found that you should start peeling the first one off after about 2 minutes.
Here is a picture of Anne pulling off some florentines that were made using a different recipe (note the difference in color), but we want to include this image here because it demonstrates how gingerly you have to work your spatula(s) under the paper-thin wafers. Use the thinnest spatula you have (our metal cake spatula works the best), and after about 2 minutes, quickly work the spatula underneath the wafer to lift it off the pan – be careful because the center will be more pliable than the edges.
As soon as you lift the thin disc off the pan, flip it over onto one of the corner “bumps” of the muffin pan, molding it around the cup. In about 5 minutes it will be set and can be removed and placed on a flat surface.
This recipe makes about 10 florentines, which – if you’re doing one pan at a time – is going to take almost two hours. So, turn up the Christmas music and make an event of it (or halve the recipe).
Now, at about this point, perhaps you’re thinking that the shoebox is too fancy for you and that everything turns out so nicely for us. Well, watch this . . .
Here are all 10 cups, beautifully displayed after two hours of meticulous work:
Notice how this photo is a bit blurry? Not shoebox quality, right? Why would we post such a poor quality photo? Could it be because this is the only photo of the finished product we were able to take? And could it be blurry because someone jerked the camera as he tried to catch the light deflector before it fell out of his hand . . .
. . . and landed squarely on the pan, crushing all 10 of the perfectly sculpted cups into a bazillion pieces.
Yes, we screw up around here. More than you might think.
It was a sad moment, indeed. But . . . the show must go on. Plus, we’ve already brought you along this far. So, on to the ice cream.
Peppermint Ice Cream (adapted from our Colombian Coffee Ice Cream recipe)
- 1 1/2 cups half & half
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 6 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup turbinado sugar
- 1 tbs peppermint extract
- 1 tbs water
- 1/8 tsp kosher salt
- Zest of 1/2 a lemon
- 1/2 cup finely crushed peppermint candies
Set up an ice bath and place a large glass mixing bowl in the bath. In a small mixing bowl, vigorously whisk the egg yolks and water for about 4 minutes, or until bright yellow and creamy. Set aside.
Combine the half & half, heavy cream, salt, sugar, and lemon zest in a large saucepan and heat slowly over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 175 degrees. Remove from heat.
Spoon out about a cup of the warmed mixture and pour slowly in a steady stream into the egg yolks while whisking the yolks continuously. Then, pour the now-warmed yolk mixture back into the saucepan while whisking the saucepan mixture continuously. Place the saucepan back over medium heat and whisk continuously until the mixture reaches 180 degrees. Remove from heat and pour through a fine mesh screen into the water bath bowl.
Add the peppermint extract and continue to whisk the mixture until it reaches near room temperature. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 4-6 hours or overnight. Congrats, you’ve made a custard.
Once chilled, pour the custard into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the pulverized peppermints once the mixture starts to thicken. Once frozen to your desired consistency, scoop into a 1.5 quart capacity container and place in freezer overnight to allow the ice cream to harden further.
We managed to piece together a few of the ill-fated florentines to make a pseudo-bowl and placed a few scoops of our peppermint ice cream in the center. We then topped the scoops with a few peppermint candy pieces and, of course, some chocolate syrup.
This seasonal ice cream served in an edible bowl is quite the treat. Our go-to ice cream recipe produced very creamy results and the peppermint flavor was just strong enough – not overpowering. The crackly texture of the sweet, nutty florentine foiled so nicely with the soft ice cream, making bite after bite dreamily satisfying. After just a few bites we had already forgotten our earlier kitchen disaster . . .
. . . until we saw this again. :-)
Mess something up in the kitchen this week – it can be a delicious endeavor!