Monday, December 21, 2009

Season's Greetings

Here's to everyone having a very merry Christmas and an absolute blast ushering in the new year!

I for one am truly looking forward to 2010 for all sorts of reasons, firstly because I'll be kicking off my teaching calendar with the return of a familiar favourite - this macaron and biscotti class is back; to all the lovely ladies who requested its return, thank you very much and I look forward to seeing you. Only 2 sessions of this demo class have been scheduled, on 9 January 2010(Saturday) and 10 January 2010(Sunday) at Shermay's Cooking School. For inquiries, please call +65 6479 8442 or email

Another reason, of course, is that I'm also looking forward to the week thereafter as we'd re-scheduled our break to January. While there're few cities as breathtaking as la ville-lumière in December, and I'm sorry to be missing it, January brings with it the consolation prize of hitting les soldes d'hiver like a gale moving at speeds off the Beaufort scale, not a trifling consideration if you have a bit of a retail therapy thing.

But really, that aside, I am psyched to appreciate the austere beauty of the city in late winter, far from the madding crowds. In Hemingway's soul-stirring words from A Moveable Feast,

When we came back to Paris it was clear and cold and lovely. The city had accommodated itself to winter, there was good wood for sale at the wood and coal place across our street, and there were braziers outside of many of the good cafes so that you could keep warm on the terraces. Our own apartment was warm and cheerful. We burned boulets which were molded, egg-shaped lumps of coal dust, on the wood fire, and on the streets the winter light was beautiful. Now you were accustomed to see the bare trees against the sky and you walked on the fresh-washed gravel paths through the Luxembourg gardens in the clear sharp wind. The trees were beautiful without their leaves when you were reconciled to them, and the winter winds blew across the surfaces of the ponds and the fountains were blowing in the bright light.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Cookies and Cream Ice Cream Pie

One of W's favourite ice cream flavours is also one that's, once the basic vanilla custard base is stirred together, a snap to make.

Seeing as there is simply no homemade substitute that comes even remotely close to replicating the mysterious flavour, colour and texture of milk's favourite cookie, and believe you me I have tried, it's hard to be a stickler to the from-scratch principles you generally try to respect. In short, there's no reason to feel like you're cheating because all it takes to make this particular ice cream add-in is plucking that familiar bright blue package right off the supermarket aisle, ripping it open, coarsely crushing the contents and et voilà - you're ready to rock out with the ice cream machine.

We had company over for dinner last night, held in celebration of our good friend J's birthday. The ice cream pies, replete with candles, were served in lieu of a conventional birthday cake. I had used individual tartlet pans to mold the cookie crumb crust, but you can just as easily use one large pan. Either way, it's awesome with hot fudge sauce. And instead of cookies and cream ice cream pie, the ice cream can just as easily be used to sandwich chocolate cake layers to construct a cookies and cream ice cream cake.

Cookies and Cream Ice Cream
Yields about 8 servings

360 gm Whipping cream
360 gm Whole milk
6 Large egg yolks (each from a 60gm egg)
135 gm Caster sugar
1/2 tsp Fine salt
2 tsp Vanilla extract
10 Oreo cookies, coarsely crushed
  1. Bring the cream and milk to a simmer over medium heat in a medium saucepan.
  2. While the cream mixture is being heated, whisk together the egg yolks, caster sugar and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Remove saucepan from the heat and slowly drizzle about one-quarter of the cream mixture in a thin stream into the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly. Once incorporated, pour the mixture in the bowl back into the saucepan with the rest of the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly.
  4. Place a fine-meshed sieve or chinois over a clean bowl and place this close by to the stove. Place the saucepan over low heat and immediately begin to stir the custard with a spatula, being sure to scrape the edges and bottom of the pan. Stir constantly until the custard has sufficiently thickened. If you are using a thermometer, the custard is ready when it reaches a temperature of 170 °F. Alternatively, do the “spoon-coating consistency” test – dip the spatula into the custard, withdraw the spatula, and run your finger across the spatula; the custard is ready when your finger leaves a clearly defined trail across the custard-coated spatula. If not (the custard is still runny), cook for longer and keep testing until the consistency is right.
  5. Once the custard is ready, immediately take the saucepan off the heat and strain its contents through the sieve or chinois into the bowl in order to eliminate any stray strands of coagulated egg and ensure a perfectly smooth custard. Stir the vanilla extract into the strained custard.
  6. Press cling wrap right against the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming, let cool, then chill the custard in the refrigerator until thoroughly cold, at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.
  7. Churn the custard in the ice cream machine, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the ice cream attains a soft-serve consistency, add the coarsely crushed Oreos. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-proof airtight container and store in the freezer to firm up sufficiently before scooping/serving. Depending on the efficiency of the freezer, this will take about 4 hours.

    Storage: Homemade ice cream will keep well for about 1 week in the freezer if properly stored in an airtight container. However, the texture is ideal and at its best if served within 48 hours.