Salty Peanut Ice Cream

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I don’t recall exactly when my love for sweets began.  I do know however that I come from a long line of “sweet-crazed beings” and often try to place blame on genetics for my uncontrollable need for sweets.  I have many wonderful memories of growing up in a very small town in the South, however, I remember one of the most anticipated family events was our once a week trip to the local Dairy Queen or “DQ”.  It was a tiny ice cream shop then with a walk-up service counter.  My Mom loved to take us there because it made us kids so happy, but the truth is…it made her happy.  She’d splurge on frozen treats by the dozen to stash in our freezer for later consumption.  A great convenience since the DQ was an entire mile away…maybe.  I remember fondly and still today, my Mom’s favorite was the peanut buster parfait.  Soft serve vanilla ice cream blanketed with warm fudge sauce and topped with crunchy salted peanuts.  The combination of sweet and salty made it an irresistible treat.

I recently ordered dessert at a restaurant that included peanut ice cream as it was the waiter’s favored choice.  I ordered it without much thought, not really expecting anything too memorable.  To my surprise, upon first bite, I was instantly transported back to my childhood.  It was absolutely divine and incredibly nostalgic.  Slightly sweet yet salty, deliciously creamy yet crunchy and entirely mine.  I haven’t been able to stop obsessing about it since.  I’ve spent much time these past few weeks searching persistently for the perfect recipe for peanut ice cream but have mostly only uncovered peanut butter ice cream recipes, which seemed too sweet for my now unnaturally obsessive vision.  After much research, I decided to alter a peanut butter ice cream recipe to create a more salty peanut treat.  Wow.  What I created was unbelievable!

The ice cream is custard based which means that the milk is heated and then tempered into the egg and sugar mixture, similar to a pudding or custard.  In my opinion, this method is far superior resulting in an incredibly creamy and rich ice cream.  This process takes more time but is fully worth the effort.  The base of the ice cream is so creamy exuding subtle hints of peanut butter while the peanuts balance the sweet with an incredible saltiness and crunch.

Go ahead Mom and drizzle it with warm fudge sauce if you must, but this ice cream creates memories standing simply on its own.

This one is for you Mom…I love you and your sweet tooth!

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Salty Peanut Ice Cream          {Print Recipe}

Makes about 1 quart

1 cup whole milk

¾ cup sugar

3 eggs

½ cup crunchy peanut butter (preferably the low-sugar variety).  You can also use smooth peanut butter.

1 ½ cups heavy whipped cream

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup lightly salted, roasted shelled peanuts, chopped

Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until just hot (not boiling).  In a separate medium bowl, beat the sugar and eggs with a mixer until thick and pale yellow.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture in bowl (whisking constantly so you don’t scramble the eggs).  Once incorporated, pour the milk-egg mixture back into the saucepan.  Return the saucepan to medium-low heat and cook custard, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 5 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the peanut butter.  If using smooth peanut butter, strain the custard into a large bowl.  Let the mixture cool slightly, stirring often, then stir in the cream and vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate until cold, 6-8 hours or overnight.

Process the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions (for about 20 minutes), adding the cup of peanuts about 5 minutes before it has finished churning.  Transfer to a bowl, cover and freeze until hard.  Break out the spoon and dig in!

Recipe adapted from Saveur Magazine

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Amaretto Cheesecake Parfaits

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There are many splendid things about summer; letting the warm sun soak through your skin, beloved outdoor barbeques with friends, endless hours spent relaxing by the pool with an icy cocktail and refreshing summertime desserts to replenish your fortitude.  As the temperature of summer escalates, the oven quickly becomes an intolerable presence no matter the sweet succulence that it can yield.  Cool desserts make their long awaited arrival to accompany light summer meals.  Berries and fruit are at their peak of sweetness and are a simple yet delicious indulgence.  Parfaits offer an amazing balance of cool, sweet, creamy and crunchy and are the perfect remedy for even the hottest of days.

These parfaits are about the best thing I’ve ever tasted.  I simply can’t get enough of them!  The individual layers can be prepared ahead of time and assembled just before serving.  I strongly encourage you to give these a try and please invite me over when you do.

Amaretto Cheesecake Parfaits          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 8 servings

Cheesecake custard:

1 cup whole milk

5 Tbsp granulated sugar

4 large egg yolks

2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch

6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

3 Tbsp amaretto liqueur

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Macerated strawberries:

1 lb fresh strawberries, sliced

2 Tbsp granulated sugar

4 Tbsp amaretto liqueur

Gingersnap cookies (I like Jules Destrooper brand, found at most grocery stores), crushed

Making the custard:

In a medium saucepan, whisk together 3/4 cup whole milk with 3 Tbsp sugar.  Bring to a gentle boil and remove from heat when it just comes to a boil. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the cornstarch and the remaining sugar.  Gradually whisk the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture whisking constantly.  Pour the combined mixture back into the medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 2-3 minutes.  Lower the heat and add the cream cheese, amaretto and vanilla, whisking until smooth, about 1 minute.  Scrape the custard into a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the custard.  Refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.

Using an electric mixer, beat the heavy whipping cream until medium peaks form.  Gently fold the whipped cream mixture into the chilled custard until well incorporated and there are no visible streaks.

Making the macerated strawberries:

Combine the sliced strawberries, sugar and amaretto in a bowl and refrigerate for about 2 hours.  Try not to eat all of them before assembling the parfaits.

Assembling the parfaits:

Spoon a portion of the custard into individual parfait glasses, followed by a scoop of the macerated strawberries and then the crushed gingersnap cookies.  Continue layering until the parfait glasses are filled.  Serve immediately.

 

Almond Crème Caramel

We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take a magnificent trip to France several years ago before our daughter Ami was born.  We spent a week in Paris and another week in the countryside of the Dordogne region.  Both settings were so amazing, but I have to say, there will always be a special place in my heart for the Dordogne region.  The food was out of this world and the countryside was picturesque to say the least.  We stayed in a quaint little idyllic country inn to relax and recoup from our exciting travels through Paris the prior week.  I’ll never forget waking up every morning and enjoying a wonderful breakfast hand delivered to our room.  The pastries and breads were absolutely divine, but the yogurts, cheese and custards were the most memorable.  In France, they don’t pasteurize their dairy products and you wouldn’t believe what a difference that makes.  It creates the creamiest and most decadent desserts like nothing you’ve ever had.

We paid tribute to the region of Provence this past weekend with our neighbors and had the most perfect French summer meal…do we have the best neighbors or what?!  While our focus wasn’t on the Dordogne Region, it still brought back so many wonderful memories and tastes from our travels.  We feasted on tapenade, caramelized onion spread, homemade French bread, Salade Nicoise and…of course…dessert!  I made an Almond Crème Caramel that was so good it had us speaking French…de ce monde (out of this world)!!  I actually don’t know a lick of French as many of the French locals would be happy to tell you. 🙂  The dessert was very similar to Crème Brulee or even Flan, but the almond infused custard took it WAY over the top.  I’m enjoying some even as I type this post…I just can’t believe how good it is…my waistline seems to love it too.

Vivre la France!

xoxo

shannon

 

Almond Crème Caramel          {Print Recipe}

Yields: 6 servings

Caramel

1 cup sugar

½ cup water

Custard

1 cup sliced almonds

3 cups half-and-half

3 Tbsp light brown sugar

10 large egg yolks

2 large whole eggs

½ cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar

1 Tbsp Orzata almond syrup*, optional (I used Amaretto instead…yum)

Boiling water

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Cook over medium-high heat, without stirring, until a deep-amber caramel forms, about 10 minutes (keep a close eye on it as it will burn quickly if you’re not paying attention).  Immediately pour the caramel into six 1-cup ramekins or custard cups and gently swirl to coat the bottoms and slightly up the sides.  Set the ramekins in a small roasting pan.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  In a medium skillet, toast the almonds over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  In a medium saucepan, heat the half-and-half until steaming.  Remove from the heat and stir in the toasted almonds and brown sugar and let steep (sit in pan with no heat) for 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the eggs and granulated sugar just until combined.  Re-warm the half-and-half mixture over low heat.  Gradually whisk ½ cup of the hot half-and-half into the eggs.  Whisk the egg mixture back into the remaining half-and-half, then strain the custard into a bowl.  Stir the almond syrup or Amaretto into the custard.

Pour the custard into the ramekins.  Carefully set the roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven and fill the pan with enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Cover the pan with foil.  Bake the custards for 30-40 minutes, or until they are set but still slightly wobbly in the center.  Remove the roasting pan from the oven and discard the foil.  Let the custards cool in the water bath.  Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To unmold the custards, run a thin-bladed knife around each ramekin.  Cover with a dessert plate and invert tapping gently to loosen the custard.  Scrape any remaining caramel over the custards and serve.

The baked custards can be refrigerated in the ramekins for up to 2 days.

*Orzata is a sweet, almond-flavored syrup that is found at liquor stores or gourmet food stores.

Recipe from Food & Wine, Tim Goodell