Hot summer nights

Getting cold when it's hotWe here in the Pacific Northwest are an odd weather lot.  With an average year round temperature of 54, we get picky about things like too cold or too hot.  We are closet rain lovers, whilst putting up a good whiney front when it’s too wet.

It happens every year, a chorus of “where’s summer?” from May until mid-July.  When my kids were younger, we had a bench mark of 72 degrees before we could go to the beach for swimming.  They would glue their eyes to the thermometer in the car whenever we went out, hoping it would shine the magical numbers which meant fun in the water.

The funny thing is, after about a week of sunny weather, the mutterings begin.  “Too hot.”  “Wish it would rain just a little.”  If it goes on for more than a week, people get downright snippy and there are runs on room air conditioners at the local hardware stores.

We have hit our summer, with temperatures in the 90’s for the past 2 days.  It was the perfect 2 days to hit, being concurrent with the annual summer Seattle tradition of Seafair, but I digress.

Our house gets hot.  Really hot.  No, I’m not kidding.  We’ve had people measure the temperature on our west facing windows at 140 degrees.  Our windows are 1980’s vintage metal and you could fix your evening meal on them.  Couple that with no shade and a metal roof that also heats up and the house gets really, really hot.

Because it’s only 2 days so far, this will not be a whining post, but rather a solution oriented discussion.  How do you cool down when you live in a bake oven?  Ice cream.  Delicious chilled loveliness that softens into lickable, heat quenching sweet.  Favorite flavor?  Vanilla.  The more vanilla the better.  Vanilla is not a bland flavor, it is a complex and nuanced bean, difficult to grow but oh so easy to eat.

Time to whip up a batch because the mixture needs to mature overnight, and it’s supposed to be hot again tomorrow!

Vanilla Ice Cream

About 1 quart (1l)

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop

  • 1 cup (250ml) whole milk
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
  • 5 large egg yolks (for a richer custard, you can add up to 3 more egg yolks)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour.

2. To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.

4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

5. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.

6. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Note: Used vanilla beans can be rinsed and dried, then stored in a bin of sugar. That sugar can be used for baking and, of course, for future ice cream making.


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