I would never classify myself as a pastry chef, nor say that I could ever win a Betty Crocker award. I do love to cook, but I consider myself more of a “freestyle” chef, as I have a hard time following recipes or even using them at all; which is why desserts have never really been my strong suit, especially since 99% of the time you must following a recipe.
When I host a dinner party, I typically dread planning what to make for dessert. Over the past few years, I have either gotten older and wiser, or just a little more savvy with my time and skills on the dessert front. Which brings me to my signature go-to-sweet-creation…Ice-Cream! And my secret ingredient for this: Häagen Dazs- Five, Vanilla Bean Ice-Cream (pint)
So, you might be scratching your head thinking…is she really going to try to pull off serving a scoop of store bought vanilla ice-cream, and claim it’s her own?
Well, sort of… it’s actually simple! Homemade Ice-Cream is made from 5 straightforward ingredients: Milk, Cream, Sugar, Eggs, Vanilla. So, basically, I make it easier on myself and skip that step (mainly since I don’t have room to store an ice-cream maker at my little, yet adorable NYC apartment). I choose buy the already “made” base, then make it my own by adding signature ingredients. It’s not cheating…it’s getting creative! I like to select interesting flavor components, so that it is unique and has a sense of “artisanal” style.
Some of my favorite combinations include:
- Earl Grey Black Tea with Lavender and Honey
- Fresh Cinnamon Stick with a hint of Nutmeg
- Fresh Basil and Thyme
- Peanut Butter and Jelly with mini Chocolate Chips
- Smore’s: Mini Chocolate Chips, Graham Crackers and Marshmallow Fluff
- Carmel with Salted Pretzels
To jazz it up a bit more….I like to serve the ice cream in a cool eclectic dish or vintage tea-cup and garnish with either a thin almond cookie (also store bought), a chocolate hand-dipped fortune cookie wafer, or a pretzel rod, depending on which flavor combo I am serving.
This is a step-by-step guide to create my - 5 minute, fool proof dessert:
Buy a pint (or two) of the Häagen Dazs- Five, Vanilla Bean Ice-cream (low fat frozen vanilla yogurt can also be used if you are watching your waist line) Which retails for about $5
Measure ¼ cup heavy cream or ¼ cup whole milk. (*best to use whole milk with the herbs such as basil, since these ingredients tend to need more mixing and you don’t want to make whipped cream)
Then in a blender or food processor, add your milk or cream, your ingredients of choice and give it a quick pulse/mix. More time will be needed for herbs to fully chop/puree
Next step add the pint of vanilla ice-cream to the blender or processor, and give it several jolts from the pulse button to mix. The key is to do it fast and not let it get to a soupy state. I usually use a spatula or large spoon to help mix in between pulses from the blender.
Once your mixture is fully incorporated, pour into a container and place in the freezer immediately. Again you do not want it to be soupy, or the end product will tasty icy not smooth and creamy. For containers I like to use small (2 cup) plastic Tupperware style containers with lids, or small glass mason jars. *Tip if using glass jars, place them in the freezer to chill before adding your ice-cream mixture.
Freeze for 2-4 hours before serving…. Voila, you have a fabulous, gourmet-esc dessert you can impress your guests with. And it is really that easy!
And as a bonus....here is a fun party idea/theme I came up with that you might want to try at your next gathering-
The Ice-Cream Social
As the host, create a list of interesting ingredients, from fresh herbs, berries, candy, cookies, coffee/tea, etc., then send the list around with your invitation. Ask each of your guests to select 1-2 ingredients that best describe their personality and why.
Prior to the party review the selected ingredients and create a few different ice-cream
combinations that best reflect your guests’ choices (mixing different guests’ ingredients together). Feel free to get creative! As you make the ice-creams, come up with interesting names for the flavors to showcase your guests, i.e. Mike’s “Mellow” Mint with Rachel’s “Sassy” Raspberry. Place a sticker label or gift tag on the container to remember the flavor combo.
During the party bring your ice-creams out on a serving tray with bowls, spoons and some garnishes. Let guests serve themselves and try the various combinations.
Since I love to connect different groups of friends and match-make as well, I always find this a fun way to break the ice. It is definitely a conversation starter with the notion of “how well do we mix together”?
Thanks for reading…and I look forward to hearing from you about the interesting combinations you come up with!
Cheers and Happy Eating,
Em a la Mode aka Kitchen Princess
Photo and Styling Credit: by my dear friend Victoria del Rico *Luckily she works for food… And loves Cinnamon/Nutmeg Ice-cream J