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Our ice cream maker does not get much attention in the winter.  It sits lonely in the pantry, waiting to be remembered.  It is not that ice cream is not just as good in the wintertime, but I seem to be busy making other desserts and rarely break it out.  So the other day when our first hot days  coincided with my son’s case of strep throat, I knew it was time to make some ice cream.

The process of making homemade ice cream is simple.  Cream, milk, sugar and eggs cook into a custard.  The custard cools and then is poured into the ice cream maker to freeze.  The difficult part is making an ice cream that does not have an icy taste.  For a long time my go-to recipe was from Christopher Kimball’s The Dessert Bible.  It is a great recipe and as usual his descriptions of the process and what can go wrong are extremely helpful.  After reading a glowing review on food52 though, I decided to try a new recipe this time.  I was not disappointed.

This Vanilla Ice Cream is rich and smooth with beautiful bits of vanilla seeds flecked throughout.  It did not have the iciness that plagues so many homemade ice creams.  Do not be tempted to reduce the fat here.  Yes, this is a rich treat, but really you only need a small scoop.  Enjoy yourself in moderation.  If you really can not find a vanilla bean, you can use 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, but it will not be as good.  If you are new to vanilla beans and have questions about how to scrape the seeds, check out Marissa’s great video on Food in Jars.

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Caramel Apple Tarts

December 20, 2010

Oh, it is a good thing to have a refrigerator full of caramel sauce. When I set out last week to make a pot full  of caramel sauce, I  truly  intended to pass it on to well deserving friends and family.  As the days wear on however, I can see the supply dwindling.  The problem is…  it is really good!  (If you don’t yet have a fridge full, check out my post on Edible Gifts! Chocolate and Caramel Sauces. ) First was the obvious, caramel over ice cream (which has possibly converted this chocolate faithful to the caramel side of the ice cream shop), then apples dipped in caramel (it’s OK to eat it as a snack then, right?), and then putting it all together for one holiday worthy dessert.   Tonight’s dessert was  part apple crisp, part caramel apple, entirely decadent and yet homey, the caramel apple tart.

This recipe has been sitting in my “someday I want to make” pile for over a year.  It was originally published in Bon Appetit magazine, May 2009 by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito and originates at the restaurant, Baked, in New York.  Here is the concept: individual tart crusts, baked off in advance, then layered with caramel sauce, sauteed apples, and crisp topping.  These tasty tarts are then baked again until the sugary syrup bubbles up and the topping browns.  The original recipe suggests pairing these with Cinnamon-Rum ice cream (and provides a delicious sounding recipe- you should check it out on Epicurious).  I couldn’t manage the extra prep, so I topped it with good ol’ vanilla and a drizzle of caramel sauce.  No complaints.

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This time of year, many of us face the very difficult task of choosing the right gift for everyone on our list.  If we are lucky, we know just the perfect thing for each special someone,  a gift that will not only excite and surprise them, but will also be of good use.  Many times it is more challenging though.

Perhaps we don’t know the person very well or maybe they already seem to have everything they need.  Too often,we pick out a gift just to check it off the list.  The gift ends up having little meaning to us or to the recipient.  That is why, when faced with that dilemma, I generally choose to give an edible gift!

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