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Entries in ice cream (37)

Wednesday
Apr042012

Neapolitan Ice Cream's Sweet Origins

Have you ever found yourself standing by the open freezer door with an open carton of ice cream, trying to spoon every scoop along the chocolate-vanilla line all the way down to the bottom the carton into your mouth without getting ice cream all over your hand the further down the carton you get as a valley of vanilla and chocolate form on either side, hoping that no errant bit of strawberry taints these perfect, yin-and-yang spoonfuls?

Wow. Well...uh...neither have I.

But just in case there's anyone who has, in such moments, wondered "what's up with Neapolitan ice cream?", I took a few moments to find out more about its sweet history, with a little who-what-where-when-why-how. Not in that exact order.

First off, what is "Neapolitan"? While I personally think "strawberry-vanilla-chocolate" when I think of Neapolitan, this holy trinity isn't a hard-and-fast rule. Sometimes, other flavors (often pistachio) are included--although not a rule of the dessert, it seems that it is most frequently a trinity of flavors, regardless of what they are.

Apparently trinities are common in the ice cream world?

Waffle? Wafer? Sugar?

When did it come about? Believe it or not, it's a fairly new addition to the frozen dessert scene. While ices and granitas date back to ancient times, La Belle Neapolitan only seems to go back to the 1800s. Recipes for the fancy bricks of sweetness rose in popularity in the 19th century--a time at which fancy frozen concoctions were increasing in popularity (the same era during which Baked Alaska became popular in NYC, for instance!).

Interestingly, it seems related to spumoni--a three-flavored (usually a pink--strawberry or cherry--ice cream, paired with chocolate and pistachio).

Why then? Likely owing to the refrigeration advancements that were happening at the time, and as some food historians propose, an increasing interest in "collective gastronomy" (or complicated presentations). 

Who is "Neapolitan" named after? According to The Food Timeline, "the peoples of Napoli are credited for introducing their famous ice creams to the world in the 19th century. At that time, pressed blocks composed of special flavors were trendy. The best ones were made with 'Neapolitan-style' ice creams."

As previously noted, this would imply that "Neapolitan" refers more to the concept of several flavors pressed together, not referring to the strawberry-vanilla-chocolate combo which has become by far the most famous trinity of "Neapolitan" flavors. Interestingly, recipes from before 1900 frequently refer to different combinations, in some cases even two flavors of ice cream paired with an ice.

Neapolitan ice cream, as I hear, is nowhere near as popular in Italy as it is in the US, where it has been a popular flavor combination since the 1890s. (Some say, btw, that the American term "Neapolitan" for vanilla, chocolate and strawberry tricolored ice cream is based on its former identification with spumoni.)

Where did it rise in popularity? In spite of its Italian name, the cold and creamy sweet rose to popularity in Paris, not Italy (though the makers were Italian...still with me?). Larousse Gastronomique's words on the subject?

Porkchop, and big ice cream cones

"Neapolitan slice. A slice of ice-cream cake made with mousse mixture and ordinary ice cream, presented in a small pleated paper case. Neapolitan ice cream consists of three layers, each of a different color and flavor (chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla), moulded into a block and cut into slices. Neapolitan ice-cream makers were famous in Paris at the beginning of the 19th century, especially Tortoni, creator of numerous ice-cream cakes."

Neapolitan Cupcakes from Trophy Cupcakes

This is confirmed in the Encyclopedia of Food and Drink:

"(18th century) confectioners's shops (were) very often run by Italians. Consequently ice creams were often called "Italian ice creams" or "Neapolitan ice creams" throughout the 19th century, and the purveying of such confections became associated with Italian immigrants."

Also interesting? How it's made commercially. Here's an interesting morsel about the production process in the modern day; also, Wikipedia pointed me toward Cassell's New Universal Cookery Book, which informed me that something exists called the Neapolitan Ice Spoon.

The Neapolitan Ice Spoon has a double use; ice bowl is for putting the mixture into the mold, and the handle is for leveling it. The boxes may be made of tin, which is less expensive than pewter. They are generally sold small enough to make single ices, but these are much more troublesome to prepare. After filling the molds, if there is no cave, "bed" the ice in the usual way.

Well, no matter how you slice it (or spoon it), Neapolitan is a combination which is as iconic as it is delicious, inspiring candies, trinkets that look like candies, dresses, artwork, cakes, rice krispie treats (!) and even blondie bars.

Finalist 1: Neapolitan Blondie Bars

Conclusion? no matter who made it or where it's from, that strawberry-vanilla-chocolate confection is a trinity of awesome that is part of our hearts, via our greedy, sugar-hungry mouths.

Tuesday
Apr032012

CakeSpy Undercover: Scoop de Ville, Philadelphia

Scoop de ville

I'd like to take you on a brief virtual journey to Scoop de Ville in Philadelphia. 

Located in the center city area, not far from Rittenhouse Square, it's painted with very bright ice cream cones all over. Maybe just-this-side of garish, but in a pleasant way. Dessert should never be a halfhearted experience, after all.

Here's the interior (photo from the Scoop de Ville facebook page):After you walk in, you'll ogle at bright and sparkly stuff on the walls for a few minutes; then you'll make your way to the menu. It is a large menu.

Scoop de Ville

After looking through the mind-boggling menu of delicious ice cream (they get their ice cream from Bassett's), it's time to settle on the flavors you'd like to go with. For me, the answer was clear: butterscotch vanilla.

After you choose a flavor, if you'd like something mixed in, they will take your ice cream, and your topping...and drill it into submission with this machine.

DSC07903

What happens in the machine (other than the fun aspect of "We're playing with ice cream machinery!") is that it makes your topping and ice cream into a delicious soft-serve slurry.

Having chosen the Butterscotch Vanilla flavor, I hit up the staff for a mix-in suggestion. We decided (by committee) that chocolate covered pretzels would be a fine complement. 

DSC07904

The pretzels were pulverized in the machine, and lent a little chocolate studded saltiness to the dreamy ice cream. I think we made a very good decision indeed. I can't wait to return and try more exotic combinations from their combination menu--for instance, the "Abbey Road" (Vanilla ice cream or yogurt, Oreo, Golden Grahams, Nutella and Marshmallow Fluff on top) or perhaps the "Banana Bread" (Maple walnut ice cream or yogurt blended with oatmeal raisin cookie dough and bananas).

Scoop de Ville, 1734 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia; online here.

Friday
Jan062012

Gelat-o-Clock: Homemade Dulce de Leche Gelato Recipe

Dulce de leche gelato

There might be something better than homemade Dulce de Leche gelato.

But, you know, nothing is coming to mind just at the moment.

But I'm willing to wager a little bet.

My proposal? You spend a little while (or a long while, if you feel like making your own dulce de leche) making a list of things that are really delicious and might possibly be more delicious.

Dulce de Leche Gelato

Then, you taste the gelato. If this gelato were a person, it would be the absolute suavest of Italian playboys. It's just so smooth and gooooooood. It's creamy. It's sweet with just a little-baby-taste of salt. Like, just enough to keep you licking the spoon clean before the next spoonful. It's a master of keeping you coming back for more.

And I'm betting that after you taste it, you'll be hooked. And you, like me, might be at a loss for what could possibly be better. Well, except for pairing it with this cake.

Here's the recipe. If you feel like using store-bought dulce de leche, like I did, make sure you buy some of the good stuff and then just skip to step 3.

Dulce de leche Gelato

Recipe courtesy Emeril

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (or purchased prepared dulce de leche)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 pints heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Procedure

  1. Fill a large pot 3/4-full with water. Place the unopened can of condensed milk in the water, making sure it is covered completely, and carefully bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours, adding more water as necessary. Remove from the heat and let sit until completely cool. Watch the can carefully to make sure it does not start to bulge. If the can does begin to bulge, remove from the heat and let cool. Once cool, punch a small hole in the top of the can, return to the heat, and continue cooking. Although this is a traditional way to make this recipe, we suggest using the method below as a safe alternative to cooking an unopened can of condensed milk.
  2. Pour the condensed milk into the top of a double boiler set over simmering water. Cook, stirring every 5 minutes, until a caramel color is achieved, about 2 to 3 hours. Or, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Pour the condensed milk into a baking dish and cover with foil. Place the pan in a larger pan. Fill the larger pan with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish with the condensed milk. Bake until caramelized, about 2 hours.
  3. In a clean saucepan, combine the brown sugar and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  4. In a metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water, whisk together the warm syrup and egg yolks. Whisk constantly until the mixture is a thick, pale yellow and reaches the ribbon stage. Remove the bowl from the heat, and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until cool. Whisk in the condensed milk, heavy cream, vanilla and salt. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean container. Cover with plastic, pressing down onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours.
  5. Transfer to the bowl of an ice cream machine and process according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

 

Friday
Aug122011

Sweet News: Ice Cream Social at Seattle's Palace Kitchen

Wow, isn't that some cute ice cream artwork?

Well, it gets even better: I created the art for a very special event: the Ice Cream Social Happy Hour, coming up on August 31st at the Palace Ballroom in Seattle!

Here are the details:

Date: Wednesday, August 31st

Time: 5:30-7:30 pm

Location: The Palace Ballroom, 2100 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

Join us at the Palace Ballroom to sample some of the best ice cream that Seattle has to offer!  On hand will be delicious cold treats from ice cream superstars like:

·         Bluebird Homemade Ice Cream

·         Parfait

·         Full Tilt

·         D’Ambrosia Gelateria Arigianale

·         Old School Frozen Custard

·         Fainting Goat Gelato

·         Procopio

As well as a treat from the Tom Douglas pastry kitchen!

The cost of admission gets you a sample from every vendor, entertainment and access to a full bar.  We’ll also have a specialty ice cream cocktail available for purchase for those who want a little bit of booze with their chilly treat (for 21 and over folks only of course)!

Tickets are $15 (tax included); learn more and buy tickets online here.

Monday
Aug082011

Sweetness Overload: Banana Split S'more Whoopie Pies Recipe for Serious Eats

In case you didn't already know it, August 10th is both National S'more Day andNational Banana Split Day.

And in celebration of this momentous day, here's a dessert mash-up which allows you to go above and beyond your civic pastry eating duty: the Banana Split S'more Whoopie Pie. It combines all of the key flavor points of both the banana split and s'mores, but the delivery is a bit of a curveball: cakey banana-marshmallow cookies are lined with chocolate before sandwiching ice cream flecked with graham cracker bits.

Just more proof that if some is good, s'more is better.

Note: Don't like the idea of cold cookies? For an easy variation, sandwich toasted marshmallows or marshmallow fluff between the sandwiches instead of ice cream for a treat that doesn't have to be chilled.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Thursday
Jul282011

CakeSpy Undercover: Ha'Blender Ice Cream, Jerusalem, Israel

CakeSpy Note: This is a sweet dispatch from Cake Gumshoe Margot L.!

It was love at first sight when I discovered the ice cream parlor Ha'Blender, previously known as Shukilida, during my first month of my semester abroad in Jerusalem, Israel. It was a Friday afternoon and I was shopping in the shuk, or open-air market, which was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with what seemed to be the entire population of Jerusalem.

One of the staff members of Ha'Blender was giving out free samples of their famous Jerusalem flavor, and after one bite I was completely hooked. Ha'Blender, whose name means “The Blender” in Hebrew, makes custom ice cream flavors for its customers – you pick a base flavor and up to three mix-ins, and it gets mixed in the blender. Base flavors include vanilla, chocolate, banana, bubblegum, and more, and you can also opt for a healthier yogurt base. The mix-ins range from fruit (strawberries, bananas, peaches, mango) to halvah (a sesame-seed based sweet), nuts, and different types of chocolate, including Israeli chocolate bars such as me'ku'pelet, m&m-like candy, and more! The possibilities are endless.

Though their specialty is custom ice cream, you can also order iced coffee and other cold drinks, which are perfect on a hot day – and every day is a hot day in Jerusalem in the summer!

Ha'Blender's storefront is a tiny “hole-in-the-wall” in the shuk, which is part of what makes it so absolutely charming. They don't have a website, but their business card (which doubles as a frequent- buyer card – buy six, get one free!) lists a phone number. Staff members are incredibly welcoming, are fluent in both English and Hebrew, and, if you're a regular, they'll remember you! There's seating on a small patio next to the main through-fare of the market, providing refuge for customers who have successfully navigated the chaos of the market. It's worth the effort!

Tuesday
Jun282011

Sweet Chill: Cannoli Ice Cream Recipe for Serious Eats

Everybody knows that the best part of the cannoli is the cream. But what happens when you take that delicious filling and combine it with ice cream?

What you've got on your hands is an ice dream, that's what. This is an adaptation of a recipe from the brilliant book All American Desserts by Judith Fertig, wherein high-quality vanilla ice cream is doctored up with the makings of cannoli cream. The result is a memorable frozen treat: rich with ricotta, spices, and flecked with bits of candied fruit and chocolate chips. It's the best of two creamy worlds.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Monday
Jun272011

Sweet Chill: CakeSpy Visits Humphrey Slocombe, San Francisco

San Francisco has an almost obscene amount of delicious ice cream. And one that I finally got to visit this trip, on the urging of many, was Humphrey Slocombe. Their flavors are crazy! People would say.

When Bridget (SpySister) and I walked over, I was surprised by how not-crazy the décor seemed: for some reason I had it in my mind that this place was going to be like Voodoo Donuts or something. Well, it wasn't, but the flavors certainly were different (see a full listing of some of the flavor possibilities here); on the day of our visit, some highlights included: “Secret Breakfast” was cornflake and bourbon-infused, and other choices included vietnamese coffee, Fluffernutter, Pepper Mint (Pepper. Mint. Not "Peppermint") and "Jesus Juice" Sorbet--a mix of wine and Coca Cola.

We sampled the "Secret Breakfast" and the "Open Hand Fluffernutter", and each upgraded to a scoop of the sampled flavors.

So how does Slocombe stack up in SF's ice cream hierarchy? Well. The style of the ice cream seemed a little lighter and less rich than some of the other scoops in town, but it was still very creamy and flavorful; the flavors themselves, while unlikely in some cases, seemed well balanced and thoughtful—not just flavors dreamed up for shock value. This is what I would consider an ice cream for everyday eating--not so fancy or overly rich that it's a special-occasion type of treat.

The employees were all very friendly too, and there was no line when we went, and it was sunny and there was a table, so we filed ourselves under “Winning”.

Humphry Slocombe, 2790 Harrison Street, San Francisco; online at humphryslocombe.com.

Humphry Slocombe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday
Jun212011

Sweet Chill: CakeSpy Visits Hoffman's Ice Cream, New Jersey

Hoffman's Ice Cream in NJ is pretty famous. It's been featured on Man Versus Food and in numerous travel guides. The line is totally out the door all summer long.

But, you know, before it was on Man Vs. Food, it was where my grandma would take me and my sisters for a treat after going swimming by her house in Point Pleasant. Or where my soccer team would go to celebrate if we won a game (or drown our sorrows if we lost).

And recently a friend and myself visited Hoffman's to see if it tasted as good as I remembered.

Of course, my spytastes have become slightly more refined. During youth, my favored flavor was bubblegum (it was pink, with chiclets); but I decided to go for something more adult now that I am nearing thirty. Well, that is actually a lie: they did not have bubblegum on the day of my visit. I totally would have gotten it.

Our flavors of choice: a cup of cookie dough for me, a cup of chocolate peanut peanut butter for my companion, who got his in a cone, but it was soft, so they put it in a cup anyway and he kind of crumbled up the cone on top, like an ice cream cone crouton or something.

Happily, the ice cream was just as perfect as I remember. It's fairly simple stuff: the flavors are not extremely faceted or delicately balanced, but they are sweet, creamy, and delicious. As my companion said: “This is extremely good blue-collar ice cream.”

...and that is just fine with me.

Hoffman's Ice Cream, 3 locations; I favor the one in Spring Lake; find hours and information here.

Tuesday
Jun072011

I'm Smitten: Smitten Ice Cream, San Francisco

Smitten Ice Cream should receive a badge for "Very Adorably Named Ice Cream Establishment".

But should they receive a badge for "Extremely Delicious Product"?

Yes, yes, yes. I had the pleasure of visiting this establishment, in Hayes Valley, San Francisco, yesterday, with my friends Phil and Matt. We had some time to kill before seeing Tales Of The City, the Musical (no, really) so we decided to spend it carb-o-loading. 

Smitten is a sort of semi-permanent pop-up establishment made, strangely but delightfully, out of a recycled shipping container, and they make your ice cream to order.

We chose the "always available" flavor entitled TCHO 60.5% Dark Chocolate. We declined the offers to "Make it “hot” chocolate?" by adding candied jalapeño or topping it with coconut brittle, although they were very enticing.

Now, you have to have a few minutes to spend here, because they basically make the ice cream to order. It's true:

In the pursuit of creating better ice cream, Robyn Sue Goldman spent two years developing a one-of-a-kind ice cream machine, now named “Kelvin.” Kelvin’s uniqueness stems from its ability to make the smoothest, tastiest ice cream from scratch in 60 seconds. How? Kelvin runs on liquid nitrogen.  

Kelvin the machine takes a few minutes, but ultimately you're rewarded: this chocolate ice cream was not so much ice cream as like eating a melted, creamy chocolate truffle. And I mean this in a good way. It was extremely thick and very flavorful, and tasted like it was the opposite of low-fat. That is to say, awesome.

Worth a visit, but be warned that if there is a line, you're in for a serious wait. Sweet tip: a local told us that the other pop-up establishment sharing the recycling container, Ritual Coffee Roasters, has a "killer caramelized macaroon".

Smitten Ice Cream, 432 Octavia Street, San Francisco. Online here.

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