I was DEFEATED at our annual company picnic dessert baking contest for the SECOND TIME IN A ROW. I walked away with second prize both times, but I DID NOT WIN. That's right. DID NOT WIN.
Here's how it went down. Both times I made this absolutely kick-ass mixed berry pie (organic blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries) with an all-butter lattice crust. The first year I was beat out by a mixed fruit pinwheel type of tart. I have to admit, it was lovely, although several people told me later that my pie actually tasted better. Humphf.
This year I was the only fruit dessert. Surely, I thought, I have it in the bag. The only threat I saw were chocolate desserts, because some people are just that way about chocolate. And I was slightly worried when I saw this.
It did not win.
You will never believe this. I was beat out by a CARROT SHEET CAKE. In a pan. Seriously. It may have been a good carrot cake, but CARROT CAKE IS NOT A SEASONAL DESSERT. And the pan? Really?
Maybe I lost because I am just such a catty bitch. There were several consolations though. Both times announcement of my second-place win was greeted by audible groans of disappointment. You'd think I would have felt badly for the winners, especially when people threw up their hands in disbelief and came over the hug me. And maybe I did. Just a little bit. They are both nice people, and I'm sure their desserts were adequate. But this year Mailroom Mike told me I had nailed it though. That's meant a lot.
But moving on. You heard it here. I no longer bake. I make ice cream. And enough already with the seasonal business. I'm doing chocolate and vanilla.
But that does not mean I need throw in the creative towel. I wanted to make flavors that were different from those offered in the supermarket freezer case. Last Sunday's dinner had a Mexican theme, featuring my fried cheese salsa appetizer, green chicken enchiladas, cilantro rice, and grilled corn salad. Dessert needed to be light, and ice cream sounded like just the ticket.
I dug out a recipe snipped years ago from a newspaper for Mexican chocolate ice cream and modified it slightly.
If this isn't thumbing my nose at seasonal flavor, I don't know what is. This Mexican chocolate (bought several times over when I forget we already had some) has been in my cupboard for over a year. Packaged in plastic, it seems to have fared just fine.
For the vanilla, I took inspiration from the famous Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco, which features two flavors of ice cream a day—all fancy things like balsamic strawberry, salted caramel (which we know I can make), and . . . malted vanilla. Ever since my grandmother chose to decorate her living room coffee table with an endlessly refilling cut glass bowl of Whopper's Malt Balls, I've been a sucker for malt. You could have licked the chocolate off one, handed me the naked ball, and I would have been happy.
But these flavors together prove that it's possible to have it all.
These two recipes have different techniques: The chocolate doesn't require cooking a custard; the vanilla does. Both turned out insanely good.
VANILLA MALT ICE CREAM1 1/2 cups whole milk1/3 cup malt drink powder4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract1 1/2 cup whipping creamIn a large saucepan, heat milk and malt powder until the malt powder is dissolved and the mix simmers. Remove from heat.In a large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until pale and smooth.Pour the milk into the yolk and sugar mix, whisking constantly. Return the entire mix to the saucepan over the lowest heat setting.
Whisk constantly and do not let mixture boil. Cook until mixture coats the back of a spoon.
Strain the mixture into a large bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes.
Whisk in cream and vanilla extract. Cool and chill overnight. Process according to your ice cream maker.
MEXICAN CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
4 ounces Mexican chocolate, chopped
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup whole milkIn a large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until pale and smooth.Melt chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. Add to egg mixture and mix thoroughly. Whisk in cream, then stir in milk a little at a time.Cool and chill overnight. Process according to your ice cream maker.
Cheater alter: If you're too impatient or not sufficiently ahead on your dessert plans, a few hours in the freezer rather than overnight in the fridge will to do chill the mixture.
So next year my office will probably have this competition again. And I will NOT enter a pie. Husband, who howled with despair when he saw his favorite dessert heading out the door, has decreed that every pie I make for him will be declared a winner but only at the comfort of our kitchen table. And anyway, how pathetic would it be to show up for a third year with a losing dessert? I have this really great recipe for a fresh fig tart, with a cornmeal rosemary crust, lemon-scented marscapone cream filling, and a lavender glaze . . . but. Never mind.