What to do when it's too darn hot? Make ice cream, of course! And just in time for this summer's inland heat wave come Bi-Rite Creamery's Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones and the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book, two much-anticipated recipe books from a couple of our favorite local scoop shops. This week, we'll go to Bi-Rite; check in next week to see how Humphry Slocombe fares.
If you ever need proof of San Francisco's food obsession, just stroll by Bi-Rite Creamery on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Or a windy Tuesday, or a foggy Friday...it's a rare hour of the day, no matter what the weather, that this standing-room-only ice cream shop doesn't have a line stretching down the street and around the block. Of course, its prime Dolores Park location would be a draw even if they were selling Otter Pops and Good Humor bars. But as any fan can tell you, the ice cream is consistently delicious, in rotating flavors that offer a good mix of kid-friendly (cookies and cream, mint chip, malted vanilla with peanut brittle and milk chocolate) and foodie-pleasing (salted caramel, balsamic strawberry, honey lavender). If you can't stand the line, there's a take-out window down the street selling soft-serve swirls, plus divine seasonal fruit popsicles, cookies, and ice-cream sandwiches.
Bi-Rite Creamery founders Anne Walker and Kris Hoogerhyde got their ice-cream start in 2000, as pastry chefs at the now-closed but well-loved 42 Degrees restaurant. Even though their little shop sold close to half a million scoops last year, they still make their ice cream and ice-cream treats in small batches, using organic Straus dairy from Marin, coffee beans from Ritual Roasters, and a lot of organic and/or local produce sourced through their sister business, Bi-Rite Market. (Walker is married to Bi-Rite owner Sam Mogannam.)
The book, written by Walker and Hoogerhyde with Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food author Dabney Gough, is bright, chatty and friendly, accessible to all skill levels thanks to smart, detailed instructions that don't just rely on cooking times, but give readers visual and textural tip-offs as well. An initial Master Instructions chapter gives thorough step-by-step instructions for making ice-cream base, sorbet, granita, ice cream cakes and pies, in fuller detail than the following recipes. Even if you've never made ice cream before, reading these instructions is like having a helpful chef pal hovering at your elbow, trouble-shooting and encouraging you at every step. Besides the ice creams, there are recipes for all kinds of sundae-bar delights, from chocolate and vanilla cake bases and homemade marshmallows to hot fudge, peanut brittle, brownies, snickerdoodles (for making their signature cinnamony ricanelas ice cream), lemon curd, gingersnaps, gingerbread, and more.
Once you've mastered the vanilla ice cream, you can make any recipe in the book, as every ice cream variation starts with the same basic stovetop-custard base of heavy cream, lowfat milk, sugar, salt, and egg yolks, put together the same way. Perhaps in wanting to appeal to the broadest possible base of home cooks (and families), the authors don't give temperature measurements for their basic custard recipe, relying instead on the traditional direction to cook until it "coats the back of a spatula." In my experience, most home cooks are very jumpy around custard mixtures, and usually undercook them in their hopes of avoiding a scrambled mess. Using an instant-read, digital thermometer to gauge doneness solves this problem and gives the most consistent results; it would have be helpful if the authors had included stage-by-stage temperature readings for their more advanced, gadget-minded cooks, along with the typical visual cues.
The chapters are organized by main ingredient, so if you're craving caramel, you can turn to the caramel chapter and find everything brown and sugary, from Brown Sugar Ice Cream with a Ginger-Caramel Swirl to Toffee Chip Cookies, Brown Sugar Graham Crackers, and Caramel Sauce. It can make for some flipping back and forth if you want to make a variety of toppings, however, since the sauces—Vanilla Butterscotch, Hot Fudge, Espresso Fudge, Caramel, Blueberry-Lemon—aren't listed one after the other in a toppings chapter but separated, respectively, into the Vanilla, Chocolate, Coffee and Tea, Caramel, and Berries chapters. I also wish there was a stone-fruit chapter; homemade peach ice cream is a food of the gods, and I'm sure Walker and Hoogerhyde could make an appropriately celestial version.
And before a second edition is printed, I hope the copyediting team at Ten Speed Press does another proof-read, since at least two recipes have embarrassing gaps where significant items are mentioned in the ingredient list and then never seen again. In the Caramelized Banana Ice Cream, for example, the bananas are caramelized, pureed, and set aside, with no mention of when or how they should be added to the ice-cream base. Pumpkin puree is listed as an ingredient in Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream, but never mixed in. Small oversights, but having been a cookbook editor, I know that these are the types of mistakes that drive readers crazy. (According to Ten Speed, the authors have since fixed these omissions for future editions, and the corrected instructions are available on the book's Frequently Asked Questions page.)
Overall, I'd give this two-and-a-half scoops. The ice cream (and dairy-free fruit popsicle) recipes are fun, tasty, and very of-the-moment, and the numerous side recipes for cakes, cookies, and toppings makes this as much a dessert cookbook as an ice cream one. Plus, buying the book is the only way to find out how to make their madly popular Salted Caramel ice cream, since that's the one recipe that reviewers and bloggers can't get permission to reprint. The secret? Sugar and salt. For the rest of it, you'll have to buy the book.
Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream
In the United States, peanut butter and jelly are considered a perfect match. In Italy, it's the same thing with strawberries and balsamic vinegar, a classic combination that makes a simple, refreshing dessert. If you've never had this stellar pairing, give our frozen version a shot. The vinegar is subtle and adds depth to the bright sweetness of the strawberries. We add it in two stages (with the cooking berries and just before churning) for an even more complex flavor.
Reprinted with permission from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by Kris Hoogerhyde, Anne Walker and Dabney Gough, copyright 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
Prep Time: 15 minutes, plus 2 hours' chilling time
Cooking Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes, plus 2 to 6 hours' chilling time
Yield: 1 quart
For the Strawberry Puree:
1 1/2 pints strawberries (3 cups), preferably organic, hulled and halved or quartered
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
For the Base:
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup 1% or 2% milk
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Cook the Berries
1. Combine the berries with the 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons vinegar in a large nonreactive skillet. Put the skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the strawberries are soft and the liquid they have released has reduced somewhat, 6 to 8 minutes.
2. Let cool slightly, then transfer the berries and their juice to a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the Base
3. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up, then whisk in half the sugar (1/4 cup). Set aside.
4. In a heavy nonreactive saucepan, stir together the cream, milk, salt, and the remaining sugar (1/4 cup) and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the mixture approaches a bare simmer, reduce the heat to medium.
5. Carefully scoop out about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture and, whisking the eggs constantly, add the cream to the bowl with egg yolks. Repeat, adding another 1/2 cup of the hot cream to the bowl with the yolks. Using a heatproof rubber spatula, stir the cream in the saucepan as you slowly pour the eggs-and-cream mixture from the bowl into the pan.
6. Cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thickened, coats the back of a spatula, and holds a clear path when you run your finger across the spatula, 1-2 minutes longer.
7. Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container. Set the container into an ice-water bath, wash your spatula, and use it to stir the base occasionally until it is cool. Remove the container from the ice-water bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the base for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Freeze the Ice Cream
8. Whisk the strawberry puree and the remaining 2 teaspoons vinegar into the chilled base.
9. Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. While the ice cream is churning, put the container you'll use to store the ice cream into the freezer. Enjoy right away, or, for a firmer ice cream, transfer to the chilled container and freeze for at least 4 hours.