brown sugar kinako ice cream with roasted strawberries

strawberry kinako ice cream

This ice cream has a bit of a peanut butter and jelly vibe – though without tasting too much like peanut butter as I am not much of a peanut butter-person. Brown sugar and kinako (toasted soybean powder) flavours a mellow, toasty ice cream base interrupted by frosty chunks of roasted strawberry.

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mango cardamom lemongrass ice cream

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Growing up, mango was my favourite ice cream flavour, especially as it was an occasional treat at some restaurants. At home I would acquiesce to strawberry.

This mango ice cream is rather different from the one I used to love, infusing the base with cardamom and lemongrass. It’s not an intensely mango ice cream to avoid overwhelming the other flavours – rather it comes across creamy and fragrant, with a gentle layering of fruit for brightness.

Certainly different… though this ice cream does have the similarity of being my current favourite ice cream!

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kinako-dusted black sesame ice cream mochi

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This is essentially a remix of one of my favourite cookies, but in a form that poses much less of a choking hazard (I jest – mostly). The cookie form is delicious, but definitely a bit dry (though I’ve worked on the recipe to ameliorate that, so I do think they are a very worthwhile cookie!). Here, however, the toastiness of the dry powdery kinako is allowed to shine even more because it’s balanced by the moisture of chewy mochi and ice cream.

The black sesame ice cream mochi is lovely on its own – the black sesame paste is wonderfully toasted and savoury – but kinako just adds toastiness over toastiness, and the whole thing is curious because it’s also ice cream which is cold – and now toasty? and so on and so forth.

It’s very fun.

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coffee amaretto semifreddo with stewed cherries

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The texture of semifreddo gets me every time (though by every time I only mean each of the two times I have made it). I always go into it expecting ice cream, but semifreddo assertively reminds me that it is something of its own. It has a gorgeously creamy-crystalline texture (think creamy taiwanese-style shaved ice, but smoother and airier), and, just for a breath, melts into a cloud-like foam on the tongue, before dissolving away.

This semifreddo, a coffee and amaretto version for the holidays, had me marvelling at the texture of semifreddo anew. The alcohol keeps it at a state of softness that makes it easy to slice and gently cut with the side of a fork right out of the freezer.

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beet gingerbread ice cream with pomegranate molasses

it’s feeling like the right time of year for gingerbread! this time a creamy and spice-heavy red beet gingerbread ice cream. the beet gives it this sort of brightness in flavour and of course a gorgeous colour

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This time around I just have to give it to the beets. They are doing some good work in this ice cream.

Abundant annual beet harvests and a lack of beet ideas soured my relationship with beets over the years. I broke back in high school when I brought the dinner leftovers, a large container of sliced boiled beets, for lunch – since that meal of pure beet, I’ve never been able to look beets in the eye in same trusting way as I used to.

And so in baking with an abundance of beets, I started to wonder how I could mask their flavour. Unfortunately for that quest, beets are pretty resilient. But I’ve realized that rather than trying to cover up the beet, beet-baking can instead focus on flavour combinations that attenuate the intensity of their beetiness, while still highlighting them in different ways. Of course, those sorts of statements never really make much sense without an illustrative example. Enter the red beet gingerbread ice cream.

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dill pollen, cardamom & lemon ice cream

ice cream infused with dill plus some cardamom to round it all out, along with lemon and dill pollen. an ice cream? a curiosity?  

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My love of ice cream has grown to new heights over the past summer. Admittedly, the old hand-crank canister does not make particularly excellent ice cream and it certainly takes some focused elbow work to achieve some degree of creamy aeration. But in ice cream there is a whole new breadth of opportunity for incorporating flavours – infuse the milk, add a puree, or other mix-ins.

Dill has conveniently spread throughout the community garden like a far more benign purple loosestrife. When we noticed it was flowering, heads encircled by golden pollen granules, making ice cream was one of the first things that came to mind.

I concede that the dill is not for everyone, relegating this ice cream more so to an enjoyable curiosity than an ice cream that even I would choose to eat several litres of. But I often aim for that sort of thing anyhow. Besides, it’s a lovely way to celebrate dill in both frond and pollen-forms and commemorate the end of summer as the dill passes through its life cycle with cardamom hinting at the warming spices coming up in fall.

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roasted peach, lavender & chamomile ice cream

roasted peach, lavender and chamomile-infused ice cream strewn through with chunks of whole wheat lavender shortbread and roasted peach

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Going on trips to the west coast, summer became a season of lavender and specifically lavender shortbread.

In the warmer climes of the west coast, we would marvel over how herbs grew bountifully into literal shrubs and bushes, established sizes which I suspect truly fulfilled their promise as perennials that wake up again with each growing cycle. Lavender was sort of a mythical herb to us; the plants we grew would rarely ever flower. But! Basking in the humid warmth of the sun – and er, brake lights – lavender flourished even in the little concrete medians of the grocery store parking lot. I still have a bit of dried lavender left from the parking lot, several years old now, but still fragrant.

My lavender-flavoured go-to was shortbread, though often the texture lay closer to crackers as I would toss together guessed proportions of butter and flour (without the experience for those guessed proportions to be even marginally correct) and then require some added milk to bring the dough together. While occasionally I would use lavender flowers, I most often made it with the leaves, enabling myself to make use of the small flowerless plants we grew in our garden. I find it still imparts much of the same flavour – perhaps its moreso the lavender that I know in fact – and given the leeway to use more, often a stronger flavour as well.

When considering a lavender ice cream, the thought of shortbread came to mind as it often does with lavender – and I surprised myself about how much the taste of the shortbread I made reminded me of past summers and the grocery store parking lot.

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roasted cherry, amaretto & rosewater ice cream

an intense – but also maybe subtle? – roasted cherry, amaretto and rosewater ice cream. plus musings on what makes a good flavour combination and when to decide that a flavour has a worthwhile contribution (I seem to lean quite generously to benefit of the doubt). and the debut of these blog post bylines – good idea or not?

roasted cherry, amaretto & rosewater ice cream

This ice cream sounds a bit – um intense much? Competing flavours much? Just trying to get attention much? Surprisingly, I didn’t find it that way at all – though I’ve been known to have vastly diverging opinions on flavour combinations than other people – but I surprised myself on how the amaretto and rosewater combination resulted in something that tasted rich and biting and floral, not just amaretto layered over rosewater in an overpowering mud pile. Though thinking about it the flavours, rephrased as bitter almond and rose, do sound rather lovely even on first thought.

Flavour combinations that come to mind likely emerge from many sources – pairings sound good together because I’ve seen them in combination before, or they seem seasonally appropriate, or sometimes I think about how nicely the colours might pair (like matcha and pistachio, or apricot and turmeric), or sometimes it’s nothing more than irrational wild hope that I’ve landed upon something palatable. This ice cream resulted from a planned cherry amaretto pairing, then, some casting around for something else to add and enjoying the idea of the shock value of rosewater.

Of course, it’s one thing to plan, but another thing to actually do. As I discovered when I was ready to add rosewater to the amaretto ice cream base according to my offhanded idea, I chickened and added a bit of rosewater to just a spoonful of the ice cream base; it actually tasted quite nice. But I wasn’t convinced until I tasted a bit of the amaretto ice cream base on its own, all of a sudden it seemed to taste quite flat.

Cherry, amaretto and rosewater ice cream it was.

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strawberry rhubarb crumble ice cream

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While at a dinner, a guest recounted a story about hiking near old mine shafts–the houses of the workers were now long gone, but rhubarb patches remained, still growing from over a hundred years ago, a clear testament to rhubarb’s tenacity.

But even rhubarb struggled in the front yard of my childhood home–alongside an apple tree that never managed to actually produce apples and a lilac bush that flowered once every several years. The yard, a burial ground for my goldfish and the few birds we found at the claws of our neighbours’ standoffishly beautiful and violent cat, was made of hard, grey and crumbly brick-like soil. Our rhubarb plant was a success if the plant could give us a few good stalks. The stalks were a deep red from root to leaf and – at least we swear – sweeter and more delicious than any rhubarb we’ve grown since. When we did have rhubarb we would mix it with strawberries and make pies and crumbles, though admittedly, most of the rhubarb in the pies was usually sourced from a family friends abundant rhubarb patch.

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lemongrass, strawberry and black glutinous rice semifreddo

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It’s been a while since I’ve read any, but I’m still very fond of young adult fiction (high school dramas aside, though!). It’s probably that YA fiction tends to be populated with coming-of-age type stories with characters that are decidedly still in flux. They undoubtedly doubt themselves and unmistakably make mistakes. They’re rarely set in their ways, and even if they are, they will rarely reach the end unchanged. It’s this vulnerability to change and openness to learning about themselves in YA fiction that draws me in.

In many ways, I think that’s a stage in my life that I still identify with. I remember, when I was younger, thinking that at this age I would really be myself – in the terms of humanistic psychologists, I might have been thinking about self-actualization. Though perhaps I set my goals a bit too lofty and such confidence in the stasis of my identity isn’t age-dependent. Regardless, it’s my desire to grow as a person — whether through fantastical adventures or day to day struggles or forming relationships or finding what makes one care — that brings me back to YA fiction.

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