Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Black Chandelier

I had been worried. As the night wore on, the crowd had gotten bigger and yet, somehow friendlier. Everyone was just a little bit... different. From each other certainly, but not nearly as much as they were from the rest of the world. It was a little disconcerting. I knew a lot of the people in the crowd. Heck, I knew half the band, and we had a lot of mutual friends there. One of them, Mike was currently pushing our way through the crowd in front of me, while his wife Juliann trailed behind me. As I carried the cake between them, I was reminded of the scene in the movies where the camera follows a celebrity's bodyguard through a crowd, carving a path through the throngs of people who gladly move aside as soon as they see who they're moving for.

We got to the table and Mike pushed his way across the room to get my backpack as somebody else cleared a space on the table. I set the cake on the table, and then had Mike pick it up again as I fished two handtowels out of my bag to set under the cake stand to stabilize it. Juliann handed me the chandelier that she had been carrying and I carefully placed it on top of the cake. The band played on, oblivious to the arrival of the cake. Gradually, the attention of the crowd shifted back to the music as Ziggy Stardust and Barracuda drifted from the toy instruments to our ears. The set ended, and Jared Gold, band memeber of the Misfit Toys and owner and head designer of The Black Chandelier thanked everyone for their applause and announced that there should be a cake there shortly. He was immediately answered with shouts of, "it's already here!"

Jared hadn't seen the cake yet, and he rushed over to look at it. I knew it had imperfections. To me, it had so many that I had lost count. What is it about baking that turns pastry chefs into such perfectionists? I had to constantly remind myself that the imperfections were small and inconsequential. If Jared noticed any, he didn't give any indication, and he certainly didn't seem to mind. In fact, he was blown away. The design wasn't all mine. In fact, most of it was Susan's. But I'd had my input too. We'd tried to make the cake represent Jared and the Black Chandelier as closely as possible, and I think we managed to pull it off. Mike tried to snap at least one photo of both Jared and I next to the cake, and I kept stupidly looking away from the camera.

The cake was three tiers, and hexagonal. I didn't realize at the time why Susan suggested a hexagon, but when I was stamping the gold honeycombs onto the sides of the cake, I eventually figured it out. The sides that didn't have honeycombs had drawings from Alice in Wonderland stamped in black with a little bit of gold. Victorian images were Susan's idea, and the Alice in Wonderland stamps were my idea. The pink ribbon around the base of each layer was Susan's idea, as was the black icing trim. She had suggested the outside of the cake (underneath the stamps and the icing) should be white, but the honey that I added to the fondant and the buttercream had turned them a nice shade of cream. The cake inside was pink, with fresh strawberries mixed in to match the honey theme. And to top it all off was a faux-3D chandelier piped out in dark chocolate.

I'd been snacking on strawberry cake scraps and honey buttercream and fondant for a week, and I was pretty burned out on the flavor of everything. But I was told several times through the night that the cake was getting rave reviews from everyone. Susan told me that it tasted like strawberry ice cream. A few people came back for seconds. I already knew Jared to be quite the cake afficionado, and he reportedly told somebody that, "this guy isn't messing around, he's serious!" I told him that he was more than welcome to take the leftovers home, and that he could just give the cake base to Susan to give back to me, as soon as he was done with it. I also made a point of giving the chocolate chandelier to him, and he started asking me how best to store it. Apparently he thought it was too nice to eat.

I've already posted the recipe to the strawberry cake, and I will be posting a tutorial for the entire Black Chandelier cake shortly. It was a fun ride, and hopefully I did a good enough job for Jared to invite me back for the grand opening party of the next Black Chandelier.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mark Your Calender for This Friday

This Friday will be the opening of the fourth Black Chandelier store, at Fashion Place Mall. To celebrate, owner and fashion designer extraordinaire Jared Gold is throwing a party. He's calling it the "Magical Funhouse Flagship Store". I'm not really sure what that means, but I do know this: a grand opening party for a Black Chandelier is not an event to be missed. I have been fortunate enough to be at the grand opening party for two of the other three locations, both at the first location at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City, UT, and at the third location at the Riverwoods in Provo, UT. There is always a performance by the Misfit Toys, a musical group that only plays toy instruments, and is lead by Susan Naud, a member of the Utah Opera.

But this time will be different. Susan and I have been honored with the pleasure of building a cake for this party. I must admit that while most of the actual construction will be done by me, the majority of the design is Susan's. Of course, you can expect to see full instructions posted shortly after the party, along with photos of the construction of the cake and of the party.

So make some time to head down to Fashion Place Mall this Friday evening at 8:00pm in Murray, UT. There will be cake, there will be music, and of course, there will be cashmere. The cashmere isn't free, but the cake and the music will be. I hope to see you all there!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Geeks in Kitchen Stadium

Spoiler Alert! You may want to skip this article for the moment if you have not yet seen the Morimoto vs. Cantu episode of Iron Chef America.

I have been seeing the commercials for this match all week, and I still think there is no way they could ever have prepared me for this. Chef Homaro Cantu was touted in the commercials as bringing science to kitchen stadium. The headset that he sported seemed to indicate that he was quite the geek indeed. What I was not prepared for was the level of geekdom that he employed. In fact, I don't think that even Alton Brown, hero to geek cooks everywhere, was quite prepared for this battle.

As the camera panned over the challenger's side, it looked more like a science lab than a kitchen, and was referred to similarly by Brown and the judges. The man had a class 4 laser, for crying out loud! If using a laser to caramelize sugars wasn't enough, liquid nitrogen was in play for one of the dishes, as Cantu used balloons to sculpt frozen bulbs of beet puree.

Not to be outdone, Morimoto used sodium albinate (sp?) to make beet juice look like fish roe. Aside from that, the Iron Chef side seemed relatively traditional, with soups and sushi and dipping sauces, though he did venture into the world of liquid nitrogen as well.

Plating was equally surprising to me. For a man so impressive in his cooking techniques and equipment, Cantu's presentation was deceptively minimalist. Yet, as he explained his dishes to the judges, it was revealed that each was interactive, encouraging the diner to play with, rather than work for their food. What truly surprised me were the reactions from one of Iron Chef America's most famous and picky judges, Jeffry Steingarten. Apparently the flavors and textures were dead-on, and Steingarten seemed far more impressed with the challenger's offering than I'd ever seen it.

Morimoto's dishes were amazing as usual, but they seem diminished when compared to Cantu's. The native Japanese judge seemed the most impressed with Morimoto. Steingarten immediately went back to his grouchy, critical self. The sushi looked good enough for me to eat, and I'm not one who likes sushi (I like the raw fish, but I don't care much for vinegared rice). Plating was very neo-Japanese and beautiful, as always.

Since such... unusual... techniques usually rate low in Kitchen Stadium, I was a little surprised when Cantu's geekdom beat out Morimoto's neo-classic style by one point. It would seem that the rise of the cooking geek is at hand. Cantu had science and style that it seems that people like me only dream of. It was an episode that I will be taping as soon as it airs again, and one that I will be studying over and over, much to my wife's chagrin, I'm sure. If you get a chance, make sure you catch a rerun of it. If you aren't amazed, then I daresay you either work for NASA, or just weren't paying attention.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ace of Cakes

I had to take a moment to tell everyone about Ace of Cakes. I remember seeing the commercials before the first season, and getting all excited because Duff Goldman was getting his own TV show.

I've been watching the pastry competitions on Food Network for years. I have most of them taped, and hopefully I can convert them to a digital format sometime soon. Recently, Food Network has been showing all sorts of competitions, and a lot of them seem to be about cakes. On one competition there was this guy, Duff, who was pulling out power tools for his cake. As a guy, I instantly got excited. He didn't win that one, but it was the start of an era.

He competed in a couple more, and I even saw him on another show called Sugar Rush, building a cake in the shape of a cannon, complete with fireworks. That's right, the guy was putting fireworks in a cake. It didn't surprise me to learn that before going into pastry, Duff had been a welder and a graffiti artist, and that while running his own cake shop, he was also playing bass in a band. It wasn't long before I started seeing commercials for the first season of Ace of Cakes. That season was disappointingly short, with only six episodes. But before the first one aired, Duff was already becoming a favorite of mine. By the end of the last episode, the guy was a hero.

Tonight marks the beginning of Season Two of Ace of Cakes. The show has its own website, and has even has a few commercials up on YouTube. My favorite is still the clown one, though I couldn't help but notice that the one on YouTube is a little different than the one I saw on Comedy Central a couple of nights ago.

For those who haven't seen the show, now's a good time to start watching. This isn't your standard cooking show, with some chef standing behind a counter telling you how to pipe roses. This isn't even like Good Eats, where he goes out and illustrates cooking principles in quirky ways. This is one of the only reality shows I've ever seen that I think is actually done right. This isn't a paid advertisement or anything, this is just me telling you about one of my favorite shows. Go check it out.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Strawberry Cake

If I had only waited one more night to post, then I would have been able to end my last post on a happier note. That's right, I finally had a success with my quest for a strawberry cake. As it turns out, it wasn't so much a problem with my ingredient list. It was a problem with how I put it together.

A buttercake is classically put together using what's called the creaming method. I've referred to this method many times, but I think I went into the most detail in my chocolate chip cookie post. In a nutshell:

  1. Beat together any fats and sugars
  2. Slowly add any wet ingredients
  3. Slowly add any dry ingredients
  4. Fold in any garnishes

This is one of the most basic techniques used in baking, and it was the method that many of the recipes that I based my lime cake on used, and was therefore the method used for my lime cake. Tonight I decided to try things a little differently. I thought I'd see how things went if I used the muffin method. In another, different nutshell:

  1. Mix together the dry stuff in one bowl
  2. Mix together the wet stuff in another bowl
  3. Mix together the wet and the dry stuff

There are a couple more things to keep in mind with the muffin method. While the creaming method involves a soft, but still solid fat, such as butter or cream cheese (yes, cream cheese counts as a fat), the muffin method calls for a liquid fat. That doesn't mean you can't use butter, it just means that the butter has to be melted. Also, sugar counts as a wet ingredient, not dry. That's because it mixes so well with wet stuff. And while fat, by definition, doesn't actually contain any moisture, liquid fat still counts as a wet ingredient. And so without any further ado, I present:

Strawberry Cake

3/4 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 whole chicken eggs
1 1/2 cups crushed strawberries
2 2/3 cups cake flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in one bowl. Whisk together all of the other ingredients in another bowl. Pour the wet stuff on the dry stuff, and mix together until just combined. Try to use as little motion as possible. Pour into a greased 10-inch cake pan at bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan before inverting onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.

There were a couple of major differences between this cake and my last one. First of all, I went back to cake flour, like I should have in the first place. Second, since the fat was liquid, it was able to surround the flour more quickly, which shortens gluten strands and keeps them from developing. This is crucial for things like cake, cupcakes and, of course, muffins. Because I managed to keep gluten in check this time, the cake was lighter and more, well, cake-like.

One thing that I noticed about my cake is that the top was completely level. Whether this was due to the Utah altitude or the fact that I incresed the liquid by half a cup, I do not know. What I do know is that the flavor, while still not as intense as I would like, was certainly better than before. I may have to resort to essential oils to get that last little kick of flavor, and to food coloring to get that last shade of pink. But for those of you who eschew additives, this recipe will be quite dandy on its own.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lime Cake

It's been a while since I posted anything. Granted, it's only been about a week, but I always get edgy after a couple of days. The problem is, I don't have much to report. It's not that I haven't been baking. In fact, I've been baking a lot. Unfortunately, my successes have been few.

What have I been doing? Even before I got a wild hair and started making ice cream, I was playing with cake. I can't help but think that before I become a world-class pastry chef, I need to have at least one cake recipe that I can call my own. It doesn't need to be completely new, of course. If it was, I don't think I could call it cake, because cake itself isn't completely new. I've been reading a plethora of cake recipes, trying to work out the physics of the ingredients so that I can get a basic understanding of cake itself.

My first idea was lime cake. I like lime. In fact, I really like key lime. But being in Utah, I don't see a whole lot of key limes at my local grocery store, or even the not so local gourmet grocery stores an hour away from me. So I decided to stick with regular old limes, which are generally available fresh in my local produce section. Of course, the morning after I successfully baked my lime cake recipe, I found a basket full of fresh key limes at 20 for a dollar at my local grocery store. You can't win 'em all, I guess.

This cake ended up being based on various butter cake recipes, which are in turn based on pound cake recipes. A classic pound cake is a simple concept, and no, it didn't get its name because it weighs a pound. The name comes from the ingredients: a pound of butter, a pound of eggs, a pound of sugar and a pound of flour. Tweak the recipe just a little and you come up with what bakers call a butter cake. Play with that a little more, and you have my lime cake.

Lime Cake

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 whole chicken eggs
1 cup heavy cream
the zest and juice of 2 limes
2 2/3 cups cake flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 350F. Before you start mixing anything together, sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and whisk to combine. With that done, go ahead and beat the butter, sugar and lime zest together until light and fluffy. Mix the eggs, cream and lime juice together, and then slowly mix in half of it. Then slowly mix in half of the flour mixture. Repeat with the other half of the wet stuff, and then the other half of the dry stuff.

This will form more of a paste than a batter, and that's okay. Use a rubber spatula to get it into a greased and floured 10-inch round cake pan, making sure to flatten it out a little, and then get it into the oven for 40 to 50 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick, especially in the center. Let it cool for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.

This results in a very limey cake indeed. In fact, you probably want to serve it with something that can counter that lime flavor, or perhaps compliment it. Chocolate frosting would be nice, but orange ganache is awesome with it.

Of course, it wasn't all sunbeams and daisies. Those of you who came for a lime cake recipe, you can safely stop here. For those who follow my inane antics, read on.

It was about this point that my friend Susan and I decided to try our hand at some cake decorating. We spent a couple of days working over the phone and email on a design (which you will see shortly), and ended up deciding upon a strawberry cake for the inside. I was confident that my lime cake recipe would serve as an excellent base for just about any other flavor, especially strawberry.

I was oh, so wrong.

Strawberries, like limes, need sugar to really show themselves off in desserts. But since strawberries don't have that acidic punch that citrus fruits have, I knew I needed more. I replaced the lime zest and juice with a cup of crushed strawberries and tossed my cake in the oven. I knew that because of the added moisture, it would probably take a little longer than my lime cake. But I never expected it to take close to two hours!

The resulting cake had a huge, ugly, cracked dome on top. Worse, it really didn't have enough strawberry flavor in it. I went back and took another look at my recipe. According to the USDA, strawberries contain about 91% water. Cream is closer to 40% water. But there was something else in my brain. When I did my externship for cooking school, I had a fellow employee tell me that in any baking recipe that called for oil or melted butter, you could replace it with applesauce, cup for cup. Apparently that's some old Weight Watchers trick. Ignoring the fact that cream is not the same thing as melted butter, and that the water ratios between cream and strawberries were way off, I tried the recipe again, minus the lime, and replacing the cup of cream with a cup of crushed strawberries. I figured the flavor of the cream was fighting with the flavor of the strawberries, and this might help the flavor battle and the physics battle.

Well, I think I won the physics battle. I ended up pulling the cake probably about five to ten minutes too early, because the center of the cooled cake was doughy. But I suspect that with the extra baking time, the cake would have been perfect. Well, physically, at least. The flavor of the strawberry was stronger, but still not enough.

I finally broke down and bought a box of strawberry cake mix. You may laugh, but try as one may, it is darn hard to bake a cake from scratch that is as flavorful and moist as a box cake. I wasn't going to use the box mix for Susan's and my design, of course. But I had to know what kind of flavor they managed to pull off.

The flavor was everything I imagined it would be. It tasted like fresh strawberries, while mine tasted vaguely like cooked strawberries. The texture was softer, probably in part because I used all-purpose flour in my second cake instead of cake flour like I should have. One very interesting thing that I noticed was that my box mix seemed to have dehydrated strawberries in it, in addition to whatever strawberry flavoring they added.

I know you would love for me to tell you that I used this as a basis for another strawberry cake recipe, but I'm not that far in the story yet. I just baked the box mix, and still need to consider how it might have been done. But I thought that I should probably post now, to keep my brain from getting nervous about not posting. Besides, blogging isn't always about the happy life, is it?

With luck, my next post will involve a strawberry cake recipe.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Tutorial: Separating Eggs

I've talked quite a bit about both egg yolks and egg whites, but I've never really talked about how to separate them from each other. It's time to take care of that.

In general terms, the egg has four separate components. It has a shell, a yolk, a white and a chalazae. The chalazae is a rope-like structure that attached the yolk to the white, and helps the yolk stay centered in the egg. I make a point of mentioning it here because it is not actually part of the yolk or the white, and you will encounter it when separating eggs.

Before we get into the heart of this tutorial, we need to get set up. You will need three non-reactive bowls, set up in a row. By non-reactive, I mean glass or stainless steel. Don't use aluminum or plastic bowls. With aluminum you run the risk of adding off colors and/or flavors to the eggs. Plastics are bad too because the molecular structure of plastic is too close to that of fats. They are so close in fact, that plastic often bonds to fats, and that bond can remain for several washings. If your egg whites are stored in a plastic bowl, they run the risk of picking up fats that were previously stored there, which will render them unsuitable for whipping later.

I also lay out a paper towel, or sometimes a sheet of wax paper, next to the bowls. When you crack eggs, some of the white will start to leak between where ever you cracked it and the bowl. This means a messy counter, especially with a lot of eggs. The paper towel makes it easier to clean up later, though you will still want to wipe the counter under the towel when you're done. The towel also gives me a place to store used egg shells while I'm working. When I'm done, I just wrap up the shells in the paper towel and carry them to the trash can.

One of the most important parts of separating an egg is cracking the shell properly. If you hit the shell too hard, it will shatter into pieces. If you don't hit it hard enough, it won't really open. It's something that takes practice, but you need to crack the egg just enough so that it will open into two halves, roughly the same size. I often will hit an egg lightly against the counter, and then rotate it in my hand and hit it again. After two or three hits, it generally opens pretty easily.

This is when we actually start separating. I have seen many a tool for this sort of thing, and I'm happy to tell you that you don't need any of them. The only tools you need are already right in front of you: your hands. Some people use the egg shells as tools, and that method is perfectly acceptable. I find it tedious, and so I stick with my hands. I will, however, cover both methods.

Hold the egg above the center bowl and remove the upper shell. Some of the white will immediately spill into the bowl below it. The goal is to get as much of the white into that center bowl as possible, without getting any of the yolk into it. The fresher the egg, the more easily the two will separate from each other. I mentioned the chalazae before. It doesn't really matter where that part goes, so don't worry about it. I mention it again because some people will wonder what the heck to do with it. Don't worry about it, it's nothing.

To separate the egg, just dump the contents of that bottom shell into my other hand, leaving small cracks between my fingers that the white can slip through, but not the yolk. If you're using the shell method, you will carefully pour the yolk back and forth between the two halves of the shell, being careful not to let the edges of the shell cut through the yolk. This is exactly why I don't like the shell method; your hands will likely have far fewer jagged edges (hopefully none). I've also found the shell method to take too long for my tastes. After a couple of passes, the white will usually fall into the center bowl, leaving nothing but yolk inside the shell. Inspect the yolk. If there is any blood in it (and sometimes there will be), throw the yolk out. Believe me, you don't want it. If it's clean, go ahead and dump the yolk into one of the side bowls and discard the shell.

This part is important. Inspect the white in the center bowl carefully. There should be no yolk in it. If even a speck of yolk made it to the center bowl, discard the white and clean the bowl using soap and hot water. Even a speck of yolk will render egg whites unsuitable for whipping. If you notice while you're separating that the yolk has broken, dump anything that's left of it into your yolk bowl. Any remaining whites will do far less damage to the yolks than the yolks will do to the whites. Also, inspect the white for blood. If there is any, throw the white out. Once you've decided that the white in the center bowl is clean, go ahead and dump it into the other bowl that doesn't contain yolks.

At this point, you will have a separated egg! Many bakers will actually separate two at a time into the middle bowl, before dumping it into the whites bowl. You can just stick with one at a time until you get practiced. Most (but not all) recipes that call for separated eggs will call for many, so go ahead and separate the others. Keep the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another. If ever a piece of yolk gets into the center bowl, make sure to wash it before continuing. And yes, soap is the only way to be absolutely certain that there is no more fat in the bowl.

Did your recipe only call for egg yolks? If you're making ice cream or cheesecake, it might have. That leaves you with a whole mess of egg whites. These can be frozen for up to a month, maybe even two, and then thawed when you're ready for them. I've seen many a cook freeze them in ice cube containers, and once frozen they move the cubes to a zip-top bag (always with the date on it). This method is fine by me, so long as the ice cube tray has never been used to store anything with fat in it (you should probably be okay there). To thaw, move the whites to the refrigerator for a day. This should give them plenty of time to thaw properly and safely.

Did your recipe only call for egg whites? If you're making angel food cake or meringue, it probably did. If you're planning on putting together such a recipe, I would suggest finding another one that uses yolks, and making that at the same time. I have safely stored yolks in the refrigerator overnight, but I don't trust them after that. If you can't use them within 24 hours, throw them out. They don't store nearly as well as the whites.

Hopefully I have given you enough information to properly separate eggs. It may look intimidating, but if you do it enough, it will become second nature to you. Go ahead and whip up an angel food cake or a batch of ice cream. Get some practice separating some eggs. It's not nearly as complex as you'd think, and it's an extremely valuable skill to have.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Blood Orange Ice Cream

I've been playing with ice cream again. In the past couple of days, I've made two different flavors: lemon and blood orange. Both were made exactly the same way, using fresh ingredients. And as you might have guessed, both were made using the base ice cream recipe I developed while playing with commercial ice cream stabilizer. Let me reiterate the basic ingredient list, minus stabilizer:

3/4 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
4 oz cream cheese, softened
pinch of salt
1 cup cream
1 pint milk

This ingredient list will produce a basic ice cream, with no flavorings. I had a friend tell me last week that his favorite flavor of ice cream was "plain", meaning no flavorings whatsoever, not even vanilla. He told me that he liked the clean taste of the unadulterated dairy and sugar. The above ingredient list will get you a somewhat rich version of that same concept.

Before I go beyond that concept, I'd better give you some idea as to how this recipe is put together. I've covered this before, and will likely cover it again. But I think the context demands a short explanation here.

You need a double boiler. Rather than going out and buying an expensive commercial setup, I recommend using the tools you should already have. You need a saucepan and a wide metal bowl. When you fill the saucepan with an inch or two of water, and put the bowl over it, the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. This is all you need for a double boiler. In many procedures, such as this one, I like to put a dish towel between the bowl and the saucepan, so that the bowl is resting on the towel instead of the pan itself, making sure that the edges of the towel are nowhere near the burners. The steam from the saucepan will keep the towel wet, and the towel itself will provide grip for the bowl.

With that in mind, set your double boiler over high heat and bring it to a rolling boil. In your bowl, combine the sugar, yolks, cream cheese (cut into pieces), salt and about a quarter of the cream, and start whisking. Your primary goal is not so much to mix everything together homogeneously, that will happen naturally. Your goal really is to keep everything moving, and make sure that no part of the mixture spends any more time in direct contact with the bowl as possible. The less time the yolks spend touching that bowl directly, the less of a chance they have of scrambling. The little bit of cream that we added will help you out in this area.

As some of you may know, this method is exactly the same as you would use for making lemon curd. Replace the cream cheese with butter and that little bit of cream with lemon juice and that's exactly what you're making. I use cream cheese instead of butter because the cream has enough butterfat as it is. I also like the flavor of cream cheese, especially when combined with other ingredients. It has the powerful ability to become an integral background note in what might otherwise be little more than a mediochre dish.

Back to our plain ice cream. As you continue to whisk, and you don't need to whisk quickly, you will notice the mixture thickening. That's because the egg yolks are starting to reach out and grab everything around them, and form them into a tight little gel. This is the essence of a curd. As this point you can slowly begin whisking in the rest of the cream. It will cool the mixture slightly. At this point I usually go a couple more minutes, which allows the mixture to heat back up and tighten a little more. Finally I whisk in the milk, which completes the concoction.

The procedure from this point is standard. Remove the bowl from the heat and put it on top of a bowl full of ice water. Keep whisking. Your goal here is still to keep egg proteins away from the side of the bowl, untill the bowl cools down to at least room tempurature. Then you can move the mixture to a resealable container, and move that container to the refrigerator overnight. This ages the mixture slightly, and allows the flavors to meld completely and become something that really is worth more than the sum of its parts. After it's aged, freeze in whatever ice cream maker you have, according to the manufacturer's instructions, and then move to your own freezer to harden.

This will create a dish that is clean and smooth, much like what my friend spoke of. But he also complained that nobody is willing to make and sell such a thing commercially. That's because the masses like more flavor. So let's go back and make the changes that I did this past week.

When you set up your double boiler with the sugar, yolks, cream cheese and salt, add the zest of two lemons to the bowl. You will also need to juice both lemons, and strain the juice into the bowl. This will ensure that you're not adding lemon seeds or pulp to the mixture, which would be undesirable in the final product. Make sure to add the zest to the bowl, and then strain the juice into the bowl. The last thing you want is to strain out all of that flavorful zest. Leave out the cream for now. The liquid from the lemon juice is plenty of moisture as it is.

Continue exactly as before, including adding all of the cream and milk when it's time. This will make a thinner mixture than before, because of all the added moisture. I compensate for this by adding two tablespoons of my commercial stabilizer when I add the lemon zest and juice, as previously mentioned in other articles. This will thicken the mixture slightly, making it much easier to churn. I should note that this is not necessary, and if you have a decent ice cream maker, your ice cream should still freeze properly. I cheat and use the stabilizer as insurance.

This will make a very creamy and very lemony ice cream indeed. Why did I choose lemon? For some unknown reason the words "lemon ice cream" got into my head, and I couldn't figure out why I had never seen such a thing before. It sounded so good, and so obvious. I had seen lemon sorbet, but never lemon ice cream. The result of my efforts was flavorful and creamy. I believe that the natural oils in the lemon zest combined with the other fats in the mixture to give it an unworldly flavor that packed a lemon punch with next to none of the tart acidity normally associated with lemons.

I wasn't finished. I have the good fortune of living near a grocery store that stocks certain less common produce on a regular basis. As I was picking up my lemons, I was startled to see blood oranges alongside the rest of the produce. For those of you who aren't familiar with this delight, it requires little explanation. It looks like a regular orange, but the outer rind tends to look like it has a red rash on parts of it. The flesh on the inside is blood red, rather than the bright orange most of us are used to. And the flavor is far more intense than any regular orange, packing more tartness and flavor than regular oranges.

Back in cooking school, we had made blood orange sorbet, using a commercial puree that the school was able to procure much more easily than the average home cook. I had the advantage of using fresh produce, and I wanted to see if blood oranges translated into ice cream nearly as well as lemons.

I used the zest and juice of two blood oranges exactly the same as with the lemons. I naively expected a dark red ice cream, similar to the sorbet from school. What I didn't take into account was the pigment of the other ingredients. The egg yolks with their natural yellow instantly turned my curd to orange, still slightly dark because of the blood oranges. But by the time I had finished adding the cream and milk, both of which are undeniably white, the mixture had become a very light orange indeed.

And the flavor? It tastes a lot like an orange cream ice cream bar, if perhaps a little more flavorful. It tasted more like a traditional orange than a blood orange, making me wonder if blood orange ice cream is even worth it. Then I realized that the original flavor had more of a punch than traditional orange in the first place, and wondered if such a thing was essential to making a regular orange-tasting ice cream. Don't get me wrong, it was good. It was dang good. But it wasn't blood orange anymore, in flavor or in color. I suppose if I were to add red food coloring, I could fool myself and others into thinking it was more blood orange than anything, at least temporarily. It's kind of like adding green to mint ice cream to make it seem mintier.

Both the lemon and the blood orange ice cream were good. So good in fact, that I'm likely to make both again, probably more than a few times. You should give it a try too. Let me know what you think.