The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As the winter winds creep in and push the warmth of summer into the deepest reaches of our memories, harvest food has one last hurrah in the Thanksgiving holiday. My favorite food season is coming to a close and I plan to go out with a bang.

For the past few years, Anden and I have been switching off where we celebrate Thanksgiving, and this year our families are coming to us! I’ve got a big meal planned and I started cooking on Saturday. On Thursday, we’re packing up and taking Thanksgiving to a local bed and breakfast owned by some friends of ours. Originally, we were going to host in our tiny apartment, but we finally came to our senses and  realized that would be impossible.

We’ve decided to grill our turkey to make room in the oven, and we’re doing as much as we can ahead of time. Sunday, I made cranberry sauce and the dough for molasses cookies to be crushed for cheesecake crust. This next recipe I started on Saturday and made on Sunday as well.

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Vermont Maple Ice Cream

From the Vermont Farm Table Cookbook

When I first stepped foot in this small town I now call home, I was in a frenzy to find an apartment. I made dozens of calls, many of which were never answered. While I waited for call backs and appointments, I took walks and explored the shops of downtown Montpelier. At a small bookshop off of Main St, I stumbled across the Vermont Farm Table Cookbook and fell in love. It’s an awesome collection of recipes from local farmers who prepare them regularly for their retail outlets. These are tried and true recipes using local ingredients, and I’ve loved every single one I’ve tried.

This rich, creamy dessert has just the right amount of sweetness, and will go perfectly with the pumpkin maple cheesecake I have planned!

Ingredients:

4 cups half and half

10 large egg yolks

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 cup grade B Vermont maple syrup

1 cup heavy cream

Because this has to chill overnight, it requires a bit of planning. I let it chill perhaps a bit longer than needed because I needed sunlight to photograph everything, but if you’re really in a pinch for time and need it the same day, be sure to chill this for at least 6-8 hours. As soon as the temperature of the custard matches the temperature in your fridge, you’re good to go.

You’ll start by heating the half and half over low heat in a medium saucepan. I reused this pan later in the recipe, so I used one big enough to accommodate all of the ingredients, about 2 quarts.

While that is gently heating, separate the eggs.

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If you’re really careful and don’t break any of the yolks, you can save the whites in a container to use for meringue.

Once you’ve separated the yolks, beat in the sugar until light and creamy.

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This will dissolve the sugar into the egg yolks. The next part is where the magic happens.

DSCN3135The yolk lightens in color after the addition of sugar, but it’s still a pretty dense liquid. The dissolved sugar  dilutes the yolk a bit, hence the color change, but the protein in egg yolk are very stable, and to get a light consistency, you have to add heat to denature the proteins. By slowly adding the hot half and half in a procedure known as tempering, you unfold the proteins without coagulating them (ie. scrambled eggs). This creates a rich, but light and fluffy base for your ice cream.

After you’ve incorporated all of the half and half, gently stir in the maple syrup and return the mixture to the sauce pan. Continuously stir the mixture with a wooden spoon over medium-low heat. This will continue to denature the proteins, which are now diluted enough to resist low-level heat on a stovetop. The consistency will remain fairly light, but the mixture will thicken as the proteins unfold. When the mixture is viscous enough to coat the back of your wooden spoon, remove it from the heat, stir in the heavy cream (should be slightly colder than room temp, but not straight from the fridge cold).

DSCN3137Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any clumps. Press a piece of plastic wrap to the mixture and refrigerate overnight, or at least 6 hours.

This is the part where I use my Cuisinart ice cream maker to freeze the ice cream. My freezing bucket holds 1 1/2 quarts, and I did this in two batches to allow for expansion. After about 15 minutes, the ice-cream has partially frozen and it can be transferred to a container to finish hardening in the freezer.

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