Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Symbiosis: What has Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream to do with Breakfast

This morning, I made two breakfast pitas, ten cups of granola and a quart of rich, dreamy chocolate-hazelnut ice cream that Stephen has since declared his favorite. All that and I still arrived early for my 9:30 interview downtown.

Oddly enough, these three recipes are all related, starting with the ice cream. The recipe calls for steeping a cup and a half of precious hazelnuts in hot, sweet milk and then... discarding the nuts! And that's not all. As is typical of custard-based ice creams, it also calls for egg yolks only - so what to do with the whites?

Make omelettes and granola, that's what. Although I'm not intentionally a fan of the egg-white omelette (Nina Planck calls it a culinary abomination), I can consider it a whole food when we'll be eating the yolks later. So for breakfast we had homemade pitas stuffed with cooked egg whites, Dutch Gouda and local (Pat's Pastured) bacon.

As for the sweet, sticky hazelnut bits that had flavored the ice cream, they blended perfectly into a batch of granola. I would summarize my granola formula as "half an ounce of sweet and one-fifth of an ounce of fat per cup of stuff." My favorite sweeteners are equal parts honey and brown rice syrup. Honey is sweeter than brown rice syrup, while the latter is extra-crispy after baking. As for the fat, I use equal parts organic grass-fed butter and coconut oil. Both of these have a bad reputation for their saturated fat content, but when they come from non-industrial sources, I believe their health-promoting attributes far exceed the negatives. Now for the "stuff" I use oats, puffed brown rice, and nuts.

Today's recipe looked like this.

The stuff:
3 1/2 cups thick rolled oats
3 cups puffed brown rice
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, roasted, chopped in a blender, then steeped in sweet milk during ice-cream-making process

The glue:
2.5 oz honey
2.5 oz brown rice syrup
1 oz coconut oil
1 oz butter
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp Stevia powder

Preheat oven to 300 F. Toss the stuff together in a large (4 qt) bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the glue ingredients and bring to a gentle boil. Let it bubble for a minute to intensify the butter flavor. Pour the glue over the stuff, folding with a wide spatula until it's evenly distributed. Spread the sticky granola all over two large cookie sheets, using wet hands to push it down to a uniform thickness a half-inch deep all around.

Put the granola in the 300 F oven for about twenty minutes, then turn the heat off and leave the granola in the cooling oven for two hours [while I go to my interview]. After two hours, reheat the oven to 300 F. Remove the granola from the oven and stir it gently. If the granola has fused into a solid layer, use a metal spatula to break the pieces and flip them over. Return the granola to the oven for another 20 minutes at 300 F, then turn off the heat and wait another two hours. When the granola is completely cool, dry and crispy, store what is left [after I've been sneaking bites of it during the day] in an airtight container. I do not know if it will last more than a week at room temperature.

Last but not least, the cause of it all: Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups hazelnuts
2 cups half-and-half (Rhody Fresh)
3/4 cup unrefined sugar (Sucanat)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cream (Butterworks Farm)
2.5 oz 60% dark chocolate chips (Ghirardelli)
4 egg yolks (Sunset View Pastures)
2 Tbs liquor (optional)

Toast the hazelnuts: Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them in a 300 F oven for seven to ten minutes. When you start to see the papery skins separating from the nutmeats, take them out of the oven and rub them briskly in a clean kitchen towel to remove most of the skins. Finely chop the nuts in a blender.

Warm the half-and-half, sugar and salt in a small saucepan until little bubbles appear around the edges.  Remove it from the heat, add the hazelnuts, then cover and let steep for an hour at room temperature.

Put the chocolate chips into a quart-sized (or larger) bowl.  Heat the cream just to boiling, then pour it over the chocolate chips, whisking until they melt into the cream.  

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks together.

Strain the hazelnut-infused milk into a medium saucepan.  Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the hazelnuts, then set the nuts aside for granola or cookies.  Reheat the milk, then pour it over the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, stirring constantly over low heat until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Making a stovetop custard is sometimes tricky - if heated too quickly, the whole thing can curdle.  Some recommend using a double boiler, but I don't bother.  The point is to bring it just below a boil to cook the yolks without causing them to separate from the milk.  The end result should be a colloid.  It should be smooth and creamy, slightly thickened, but not like scrambled eggs. 

Pour the custard into the chocolate-cream, then add the vanilla and liquor (optional - if you like spiked ice cream).  I used Bailey's only because it was all we had, but Frangelico would have more appropriate. Alcohol does not freeze, so adding liquor helps homemade ice cream (which is notoriously hard) keep a softer texture after freezing.  Chill the custard in the refrigerator for at least four hours, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

So there you have it - one wasteful recipe and two economical ones to pick up the pieces.  Even though the ingredients are extravagant, I consider this a nod to our culinarily thrifty forebears.


Dalyn (AKA The Queen of Quite Alot) said...

divine! I have to save those recipes...yummy!

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