Making Ice Cream


Among the dairy products I make the most is ice cream. I make it for myself and my family, and I always make it for retreats. When I have a retreat coming up, depending on the length and number of attendees, I make anywhere from two to six quarts of ice cream. No supper on the farm during a retreat is complete without homemade ice cream.

Because I make ice cream so much, I’ve honed over time the recipe I like the best and that is the most versatile. I make ice cream using the light cream from my cow–no milk–along with sugar and fresh eggs. That is my basic sweet cream base, and that makes a delicious ice cream all by itself. Usually I also add vanilla–the scrapings from two split vanilla beans along with about a tablespoon of my homemade vanilla extract. Vanilla extract is an alcohol extract, of course. (It’s made with vodka. See how to make vanilla extract here.) Alcohol depresses freezing, so be careful when adding extracts or any kind of liquor. I use about a tablespoon of vanilla extract, along with the vanilla bean scrapings.

Here is my basic sweet cream base, that I use for any ice cream (other than chocolate). I use fresh light cream from my cow.

2 eggs
3/4 sugar
1 quart cream

Whisk the eggs and sugar together. Slowly whisk in the cream. Then churn immediately per your ice cream maker.

I use fresh eggs from my farm and I don’t pasteurize them. However! Hello, Mr. Disclaimer! Nice to meet you!

Eating foods containing raw eggs isn’t recommended. Please use pasteurized eggs. You can buy pasteurized eggs, or pasteurize eggs at home.

From the USDA website: “To make a recipe safe that specifies using eggs that aren’t cooked, heat the eggs in a liquid from the recipe over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 160 °F. Then combine it with the other ingredients and complete the recipe.”

This is how I would do it for this recipe. In a small pot, simmer the cream and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Remove pot from heat. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. Slowly whisk about a third of the hot cream-sugar mixture into the eggs, then whisk the egg mixture back into the pot with the rest of the cream and sugar. Return pot to medium-low heat and stir until it reaches the correct temperature. Cover with plastic wrap (keeps a skin from forming) and refrigerate until cold then continue making ice cream.

Mr. Disclaimer leaves the building.

Back to my ice cream!

If I’m adding scraped vanilla beans, vanilla extract, or other flavorings, I add it along with the whisked sugar-egg mixture before adding the cream. Other ingredients, like fruit or nuts or chocolate chips, are added right at the end of the churning, just before the ice cream is ready but is still soft. You don’t want to add them too early or they get beaten up. Too late and they won’t mix through properly.

If I was buying cream at the store to make ice cream, I would buy what’s labeled as heavy whipping cream. Heavy cream fresh from a cow is very thick, much thicker than the so-called heavy whipping cream you find at the grocery store. Heavy whipping cream from the store is more like the fresh light cream I get from my cow.

One of the secrets I’ve learned to making a creamier ice cream (aside from using cream only, no milk in the recipe) is making as much as I can at a time in my ice cream maker, which is a quart. If you make less than your ice cream maker holds, you’ll add more of a secret ingredient that is in all ice cream–air. The less air in your ice cream, the creamier the consistency. The other thing that helps make ice cream creamy is fewer ice crystals. The faster you freeze your ice cream, the fewer ice crystals will be in it. Keep everything very cold–I keep my bucket that goes in my ice cream maker in the freezer. I also pop my whisk and my bowl in the freezer beforehand to get them cold, too. And, of course, the cream should be cold.

I make vanilla ice cream more than anything else, but my other favorite is butter pecan. I love that sweet-salty combination along with the taste of the toasted pecans. That is heaven.
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How to make Butter Pecan Ice Cream:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
1 cup halved or chopped pecans
2 eggs
3/4 sugar
1 quart cream

Melt butter in a small pot. Add salt to your tastes. Add the pecans–chopped or halved, however you like them in your ice cream.
Strain out the pecans and set aside the melted butter. Let the melted butter cool–but not solidify. (Don’t put it in the fridge.) Place pecans on a baking sheet and toast under the broiler. Many butter pecan ice cream recipes don’t tell you to toast the pecans. To me, this is crucial. I love the flavor difference from the toasting.
Don’t wander off. This only takes a few minutes, watch carefully! I stand right there with the oven door slightly open so I can see what’s going on.
Place the toasted pecans in a small bowl in the freezer to chill them as quickly as possible. Whisk the eggs and sugar together then whisk in the butter (along with the bits of pecans that may be lingering in the pot).
Slowly whisk in the cream.
Then churn immediately per your ice cream maker, adding the pecans at the last minute.
Store in a freezer container. For, you know, as long as it lasts. Which won’t be long!
I sometimes hear people say they don’t like to eat ice cream in the winter, but I go along with Ben and Jerry’s law of ice cream eating dynamics, which is, in short, the theory that eating cold things when it’s cold outside helps equalize your body temperature so you actually feel less cold.

Actually, I just love ice cream, so I eat it year-round, and besides, it’s warm in my house.

And by the way, Ben and Jerry have the most wonderful little book on ice cream, which includes their story about how they got into the ice cream business (very entertaining) and some great recipe ideas. I don’t make my ice creams exactly according to their recipes, but my ice cream recipes are based on their concepts. The book is Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book.
I know someone will ask–the ice cream maker I use (and love) is this Cuisinart one. You can buy an extra freezer bowl separately, so I have two. I’m often making ice cream for a crowd, and the bowls have to be frozen 24 hours before using, so having two lets me make 2 quarts of ice cream a day, which speeds up the process for me when I’m making ice cream ahead for a crowd.
Now, I’m going to dig in to a bowl of butter pecan ice cream!

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Grilled Flatbread


I’ve been baking bread since I was knee-high to a grasshopper–nine years old, see The Keeper of the Bread story. I make more regular loaf bread than anything else, but I like to try new things, different ways to play with bread. It keeps me entertained. Not there’s anything new about flatbread. People have been making flatbreads for thousands of years, both leavened and unleavened. It’s the oldest type of bread because it can be cooked simply on a hot stone, without an oven, and used to hold other foods. Every culture has their unique twist–tortilla, crepe, pizza, chapati, matzo, and so on. The popular American-style grilled flatbread is most similar to pizza, but has its roots in all of them, and can be used in so many ways.

This is a leavened flatbread, meaning it contains a “riser” (yeast) and is based on my Grandmother Bread recipe.

Never baked homemade bread before? Learn how to make bread here.
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How to make Grilled Flatbread:

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
3 1/2 cups flour

In a large bowl, combine water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit five minutes. Add the salt, oil, and first cup of flour, stirring with a heavy spoon. Add more flour a little at a time, stirring until the dough becomes too stiff to continue stirring easily. Dust with a little more flour and begin kneading. The amount of flour is approximate–your mileage may vary! Continue adding flour and kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic. Let dough rise in a greased, covered bowl until doubled. (Usually, about an hour.) Uncover bowl; sprinkle in a little more flour and knead again. Let rest five minutes.
Tear off a ball of dough at a time–whatever size you like–and shape flat on a floured surface. You can use a rolling pin, or just flatten and shape with your hands. (Hand-shaping will give a more rustic look–you aren’t going for perfect here.) You can make a large flatbread and grill it for pizza, or you can make smaller flatbreads and use it for all kinds of things! Dipping bread, folded sandwiches, or cut sandwiches, appetizers or a meal. This is a very versatile way to use a bread dough.
Brush both sides of the shaped flatbreads with olive oil and sprinkle with salt (optional) then grill outdoors or inside on a stove top grill pan over medium-high heat for about five minutes per side. (This will vary on your heat setting and the thickness of your flatbread, so watch it.)
This is even better grilled outdoors, but it’s a mite cold here at the moment…..

Grilled flatbread BLT:

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....

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