Monday, June 27, 2011

Adventures with the Ice Cream Maker: Faraway Journeys and a Return to Our Roots

Ni hao! I just got back from a very fun, broadening and delicious trip to Taiwan with my friend Emily! Here's what you need to know if you go to Taiwan:
1) If you're using the public restroom, bring your own toilet paper. But don't throw it in the bowl, it won't dissolve. Throw it in the trash can instead.
2) Paleness is considered very attractive. Everyone was appalled at the way Emily and I dressed - not because of modesty concerns, but because we were exposing so much of our skin to the sun. There are lots of ads for skin-whitening cream, like in apartheid South Africa. The women there all carry umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun, and they cover up even in extreme heat and humidity, sometimes even wearing kerchiefs over their faces! I don't understand this practice. What's the point of being pale if no one can see you?
3) No one cares about their teeth. We were watching the Golden Melody Awards (the Taiwanese Grammys), and even the biggest stars in Taiwanese music have worse-looking teeth than your average pre-braces suburban teenager.
4) The vendors are super super nice. Imagine the nicest, most accommodating salespeople you know, the ones who will give you endless free samples or will give you a free makeover on Fridays or whatever. That's just about every salesperson in Taiwan. For instance, we went to all these tea tastings where they would do an elaborate ceremony to make and serve us cup after cup of tea, but there's no significant pressure to buy.
5) The food is AWESOME! The sweets and baked goods were especially yummy. They aren't that different from Euro-American treats in their fundamentals - butter, sugar, flour, etc - but they favor fruit flavors, and chocolate is used pretty minimally. A popular flavor that I quite liked was taro, a fruity-tasting root that imparts a purple coloring. Here are some photos I took in Taiwanese bakeries:

Good stuff. My favorite sweet was the suncake, a round, flaky pastry with a sugary filling. I brought some home for my parents and had one for breakfast today. (Unfortunately, breakfast was at 2:30 a.m. since I am jetlagged all to hell.) Here's a picture:

I came home to discover that, in my absence, my dad had intensified his love affair with the ice cream maker. During the ten days I was gone he had made three different types of ice cream, and that was on top of the ice cream we had made before I left. I guess it makes sense that he would have a strong affiliation for ice cream. His father, my grandfather, owned an ice cream shop called Ralph's Dairy Bar in Butler, PA, and he used to work there over the summers growing up. But I think it's been a long time since he had homemade ice cream, since after we spooned the churned Dorie's peach honey ice cream into its container, the two of us licked the freezer bowl clean as if we had never tasted ice cream before. It was so good! Very summery and flavorful but not too sweet, although I did think the honey flavor was stronger than the peach flavor. (I pureed all the peaches instead of putting in chunks, which was actually an error but one I'm glad I made.) And it was a very nice catharsis for me. This was the first recipe I ever made in the ice cream maker, back when the heat wave was melting the freezer bowl and I didn't really know how to make ice cream. Like all the ice cream I made at that time, it didn't churn properly, so it tasted good but the texture was all wrong. Therefore, it was a treat to actually be able to make it and have it taste like ice cream, and it was an equal delight to share the experience with my dad. I loved teaching him how to make ice cream, and he has obviously become quite the expert himself!

Honey-Peach Ice Cream
From Baking from my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

4 large ripe peaches (about 2 pounds), peeled and pitted
1/4 cup honey
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Coarsely chop half the peaches into 1/2-inch chunks and toss them into a small saucepan. Add the honey and bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally until the peaches are soft but not mushy, about 10 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a blender or food processor and whir to puree. (Alternatively use a hand blender.) Set the peach puree aside while you make the custard.
Bring the milk and cream to a boil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Meanwhile in a medium bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar together until very well blended and just slightly thickened. Still whisking, drizzle in about one third of the hot liquid - this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they don't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining liquid. Pour the custard back into the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring without stopping, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon; if you run your finger down the bowl of the spoon the custard should not run into the track. The custard should reach at least 170 degrees F, but no more than 180 degrees F, on an instant read thermometer. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the custard into a 2-quart glass measuring cup or clean heatproof bowl. Stir in the vanilla and the peach puree.
Refrigerate the custard until chilled before churning it into ice cream.
Scrape the chilled custard into the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's instructions. While the ice cream is churning, finely dice the remaining 2 peaches, then, just before the ice cream is thickened and ready, add the peaches and churn to bland. Pack the ice cream into a container and freeze it for at least 2 hours, until it is firm enough to scoop.


  1. What a lovely post! We just got a new ice cream maker & have made David Lebovitz's Peach Ice Cream and Pina Colada Sorbet so far! I'm sure we'll get hooked on it just like your dad! I had NO idea how easy - or delicious - home-made ice creams and sorbets were.

  2. Thank, Susan! Yeah, my dad is pretty obsessed. He was eyeing ice cream makers in the window of Zabar's the other day...

  3. What fascinating foods you saw in Taiwan. It sounds like an amazing trip! The ice cream looks just delicious. I find making homemade ice cream so satisfying! The combination of peach and honey sounds great!

  4. I just made a honey peach sorbet today so I know your ice cream must have been delicious. Thanks for linking up to Sweets for a Saturday.


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