I've been cranking out the Vanilla Fudge Ice Cream the past couple of weeks like Republicans spew out bullshit. I made some a week ago Monday that I'd planned to take to my Granny (she's my Dad's mother) for her birthday, which was on Groundhog Day. I usually go down to South Jersey the weekend between Granny's birthday and my Mom's, which is tomorrow, Feb. 11. But the snowstorm last weekend, which mostly missed the city, hit down there in a big way. So I canceled my rental car and stayed away.
I took some of the ice cream to the Gamesters on Sunday, and they devoured it. And I made a second batch of vanilla fudge over that weekend to take with me the next time I'm able to arrange a three-day weekend and can visit the birthday gals.
Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library: Ice Creams & Sorbets with no alterations other than to double it. The custard consists of only half-and-half, sugar, and egg yolks plus the star of this post: vanilla beans.
If you've never cooked or baked with vanilla beans, you've been missing out on a wonderful sensual experience (cue the food-porn music): the intense, complex aroma; the moisture of the pod and the oils that attach to your fingers; and the tiny seeds that come out of the pod in clumps on the tip of your kitchen knife.
I can't recall where I got my Hot Fudge Sauce recipe from (and I can't find it online), so let's just pretend I made it up myself. :-) You boil 1 1/3 cup of heavy cream in a saucepan, stirring occasionally, until it's reduced to about 1 cup. Whisk in 1/3 cup of brown sugar and simmer, continuing to whisk, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in 6 oz. of bittersweet chocolate and 1 oz. of unsweetened chocolate, both of them finely chopped, until smooth. (If you're using a bag of bittersweet chocolate chips, measure 3/4 cup of chips. That's close enough.) Finally, whisk in 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
There's always some sauce left over, even when making a double batch of the ice cream, which gives me about a half gallon. I put the sauce in the fridge and eat it like fudge after it's hardened. Mmmm.
Last summer, I made Vanilla Bean Cupcakes that I was mostly happy with. They were a little dry on their own but much improved with chocolate icing that I spread in the middle of the cakes, which I'd cut open like biscuits. The "promising recipe" link in the post I linked to above no longer leads you to the recipe. But I found it here, on the blog Coconut & Lime, whose creator obviously wants nothing more to do with the Group Recipes site where I'd first discovered it.
Clementine–Vanilla Bean Quick Bread a couple of Fridays ago, and it was awesome. The citrus-vanilla combination was delicious, and the texture of the cake—which it pretty much was, despite the name—was wonderfully moist.
I used tangerines instead of clementines because my local health-food store where I usually buy my citrus fruits didn't have clementines. (Both are varieties of Mandarin orange.)
You use only the vanilla seeds in the batter. If I'd had some unflavored vodka on hand, I could have thrown the pods in the bottle. (To leave vanilla for a moment and switch to another of my flavor obsessions, when I can get fresh lemon verbena again at the farmers market, I'm so making Lemon Verbena Vodka.)
I needed to borrow a skewer from Jen and Bob to poke holes in the baked cake before putting the tangerine syrup on top. Abbe, J&B's daughter, pictured me using the skewer to make a single shish kabob for my corgi, Emme. My perpetually hungry woofer girl likes the way J&B's girl thinks. :-)