holidays ice cream

A Particularly Happy St. Patrick’s Day

We’re not Irish. But neither are most of the idiots out there today getting drunk and obnoxious, so let’s go with it.

I made Irish potatoes yesterday. A lot of Irish potatoes.

They’re gone now.

I love Irish potatoes. Everyone else in this house loves Irish potatoes.

So for today’s St. Patrick’s Day dinner I put a pot roast in the crockpot and Alex made soda bread. And since we’d eaten most of the Irish potatoes by mid-afternoon, we needed dessert.

I had half a bottle of Vanilla Porter in the fridge and memories of a delicious Guinness chocolate ice cream I made once, so ice cream was the way to go.

I have David Lebovitz’s marvelous book A Perfect Scoop, and therein found his recipe for Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream.

Alas, I didn’t have Guinness or milk chocolate, and I didn’t feel like making a custard.

So I made something up, in the process providing further evidence for my theory that you can throw just about anything into an ice cream maker and it will be fabulous.

Forthwith, my Vanilla Porter-Bittersweet Chocolate Ice Cream. Please, try it.

  • 7½ ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used 4 ounces of 72% and 3.5 ounces of 85%, because that’s what I had)
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup Breckinridge Vanilla Porter (although I’m willing to bet that you can use any good beer you like)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

I melted the chocolate very slowly in one cup of half-and-half, then stirred in the sugar till it dissolved. If I do it again, I’ll dissolve the sugar first, but I wasn’t sure how much sugar I was going to need. (I added a quarter-cup at a time till it was as sweet as I wanted it to be.)

Then I whisked in the other cup of half-and-half (a bit at a time) and the beer and the vanilla. Some of the chocolate resolidified, so I strained the mixture, remelted it, and whisked it back in, but you can skip that step if you’re not as obsessive as I am; it wasn’t that much chocolate.

I refrigerated the mixture till it was cold and fired up the old ice cream maker.

So, so good. Possibly the best ice cream I’ve ever made, and certainly in the top five.

And you can do this with whatever you have. If your chocolate is sweeter, use less sugar. Use milk. Use cream. Hell, use coconut milk and your paleo sweetener of choice. If you can make a mixture with a fairly high fat content that tastes good, it will make delicious ice cream. And if you go with fruit or juice instead of cream, it will make delicious sorbet.

Get out the ice cream maker. Experiment. You won’t regret it.


baking Dorie holidays

Tuesdays With Dorie: Chocolate Amaretti Torte


No fruit! (Although I hear that almonds are closely related to peaches, but still …)

I thought I was going to have to pass on this week’s TWD recipe. It’s Passover, and it’s a Passover tradition that you’re not allowed to eat anything that tastes good. Well, that’s not completely fair. There are two main groups of Jews in the world, the Ashkenazim (whose ancestral or current homeland is in Northern and Eastern Europe) and the Sephardim (from Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East). Ashkenazic Jews have insane strict rules about what’s kosher for Passover and what’s not; what’s not includes not just wheat and any form of leavening, but just about every other grain and legumes. Legumes? Sephardic Jews are much more mellow and have a much smaller verboten list.

My people are from Russia.

We are not a religious family, but both boys have attended a secular Jewish Sunday school (and #1 Son works there now) and we celebrate the major holidays in our own quirky ways. On Passover, we don’t eat grains. Or legumes. (Generally.)

But Holly of Phe/MOM/enon, whether accidentally or on purpose, chose what may be the only recipe in the entire book that I could make during Passover: no flour, no leavening, no legumes.

And it was good.

First of all, it calls for amaretti or amarettini. I had no idea what these were; I was picturing (for no real reason, actually) something like biscotti. So I deployed my formidable research skills (and Google) and found a few recipes, some of which used almonds and some of which used almond paste. That was a no-brainer; I didn’t have almond paste.


I went with this recipe from Allrecipes; I’ve had pretty good luck with several different Allrecipes recipes in the past few weeks. It calls for almonds, ground fine in a food processor. I had almonds, but I also had almond meal, and several of the commenters had used the latter successfully.

Science experiment!

I conveniently had six egg whites left over from a dinner #1 Son had made earlier in the week (post to come, if I can get him to write it). What’s a girl to do? I made two batches of amaretti, exactly the same except that one used 3 cups of raw slivered almonds and the other used 2½ cups of almond meal. The almond meal was made from unblanched almonds, so it had brown specks in it, but you know what? There was a huge difference between the two batches. The almond batch was much harder, the same consistency throughout. The almond meal batch was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, just as they should have been.

And you know what else? I’ve been looking for these cookies for 20 years, but I didn’t know what they were.

My first job after college was working at Philadelphia magazine. Restaurants and bakeries often sent us samples, in the hopes of a good write-up. Shortly before Christmas one year we got a big cookie tray from Termini Bros. Bakery, an Italian bakery with a long history in the city. On that tray were these little almond cookies, crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and the most marvelous things I’d ever tasted. I ate an unforgivable number of those adorable little things (and because I was 20 years old my body forgave me). Ever since then I’ve been trying to find a recipe, but I didn’t know what they were called.

They’re amaretti. (Or maybe amarettini; I’m not sure where the size division is.) And now I can have them whenever I want.



I love Holly.

Oh, yeah — we made some sort of a cake thingie this week too, right? Sorry. Got distracted by the amaretti.

It looked like nothing more than a giant brownie when I took it out of the oven, and it wasn’t domed at all (as the recipe said it would be); it had an edge like a Reese’s peanut butter cup. And the glaze was very runny when I put it on; I made a horrific mess trying to get it into the refrigerator. #1 Son saved the day there. Yay #1 Son!


The glaze did thicken up nicely, though the half-hour specified in the recipe was not really enough. I took it to Easter dinner at the home of friends, and I put it back in the fridge when I got there to harden some more. I also made the almond whipped cream there, figuring it wouldn’t travel well.

The torte was good. It was very dark, very rich, very sweet. I am not in general a big fan of whipped cream, but it really made this cake. Without the whipped cream it was too much, but with it was delicious. In very thin slices.


We have some extra opinions this week:

Friend #1: Stupendous.

Friend #2: The torte with the whipped cream was sublime.

Friend #3 (age 13): Fantastically amazing.

Then my three:

Husband: Great cocoa burst at the outset, with a rich mouthfeel. Hints of almond in the whipped cream made for a deliciously complex dessert.

#2 Son: It was super! It was amazing!! It was better than Cats!!!

#1 Son, always the contrarian: Too dense. Too sweet. No depth or dimension of flavor.

So there you have it. Ignore my charming first-born; this was a delicious cake. Just cut the slices thin.

If you want to try it yourself, Holly will have the recipe for you (or buy the book!). And if you want to see what all the other TWD bakers did with it, check out the blogroll.

Next week, chocolate bread pudding!

bread holidays meat

An Irish-ish Meal


I promised this post on Tuesday night, but better late than never, I suppose.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we ate Irish (or a facsimile thereof): Irish stew and soda bread (and Guinness for the oldest two male members of the household). Husband couldn’t find lamb in the city or over here, so we wound up with beef for the stew, and I discovered at the last minute that I was out of King Arthur’s white whole-wheat flour and that neither of the supermarkets within two miles of my house carry it.

So beef stew and white soda bread it was.

I used a stew recipe I found on AllRecipes, although I made some modifications; I try a new recipe every time I make Irish stew, and this one had Guinness in it; I thought the boys would appreciate that. I dredged the beef (2½ pounds, rather than the recipe’s 1) in salted and garlicked flour, then browned it in my beautiful new 12-inch skillet (thank you, Freecycle!), then threw it in the crockpot.

Softened an onion and garlic and some celery — I did say it was Irish-ish — and threw that into the crockpot too.

Then broth and beer and a couple of bay leaves and oregano, but no tomato paste or mushrooms. They’re not Irish at all. (I have malleable standards.)

Cooked it for hours, four or so, then added the cornstarch to thicken. And some salt.



The soda bread recipe came from Gourmet. Real Irish soda bread is whole-wheat, but as mentioned above, not this year. Everyone seemed happy with it, though, and #2 Son has been eating the leftovers for two days now.

So that was our St. Patrick’s Day. What did you do?


boys candy Dorie holidays

And Again, No Tuesdays With Dorie

But I bring you another in what seems to be a series of ethnic holiday dishes (although this one, technically, is not my ethnicity, nor is it the ethnicity of anyone on either side of my family, or my husband’s; that’s got to make us pretty unusual.)

First, if you want to read about French Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze (which sounds heavenly, I must say), check out all the other TWD blogs, most especially My Cookbook Addiction, where Liliana (who chose the recipe for us this week) will have the recipe for you. You should definitely also buy Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, the founder of our weekly feasts.

So today is, of course, St. Patrick’s Day. We like all things English/Irish/Scottish/Welsh around here (although again, no family history in any of those places), and so we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day the same way we celebrate everything else: with food.

#2 Son made the Irish potatoes (such as they were) this year, and being #2 Son he did them his own way (and in the process learned that there is a very definite difference between regular cinnamon and Penzey’s Vietnamese cinnamon). For those of you who don’t know Irish potatoes — you poor deprived souls — they’re not potatoes at all, or Irish. They’re a mix of cream cheese and butter and powdered sugar and coconut, rolled into little balls of heaven and coated in cinnamon. I’ve heard that they’re a Philadelphia thing, not widely known outside the city; I can’t confirm or deny that. But if you haven’t ever tried them, do it now.

He started out making potatoes:


But he quickly decided that potatoes just wouldn’t do. There was a famine, after all, and all the potatoes turned black.

So he made some other shapes:

Celtic cross
Celtic cross
Snake, in honor of St. Patrick
Snake, in honor of St. Patrick
Bottle of Guinness (yes, he's 11)
Bottle of Guinness (yes, he’s 11)
And what turned out to look like a standing stone, even though it wasn't meant to be
And what turned out to look like a standing stone, even though it wasn’t meant to be

Later tonight I’ll write about the Irish stew and soda bread we’re having for dinner. But for now, here’s our recipe for Irish potatoes, originally provided by Donna Pilato at Entertaining (my comments in parentheses):

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, softened
  • 4 ounces regular cream cheese, softened (Donna says don’t use low fat or whipped, but we used Neufchatel with no problems)
  • 1 pound powdered sugar, plus extra for coating hands
  • 7 ounces sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon (we have also used allspice and nutmeg, both of which were delicious)

With mixer, cream together cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl. Mix in sugar and vanilla, being careful to add sugar slowly to avoid creating a large sugar cloud. Stir in the coconut flakes. Put cinnamon into a small bowl. (If you discover that you have accidentally used extraordinarily strong Vietnamese cinnamon, mix in some powdered sugar to cut it.) Coat dry hands with a little powdered sugar, and using your hands take small pieces of mixture (about 2 teaspoons apiece) and form into potato shape (or as you wish!). Drop potatoes into cinnamon and roll to coat. Place on baking sheet. When all the potatoes have been formed and dipped in cinnamon, refrigerate for several hours until firm. (Or eat right away. Whatever.)