One night after we returned from Christmas vacation I was sitting on the couch reading my cookbooks. I'm not lying, I do this often and no - it's not weird... it's Inspiring. Especially when there are gorgeous pictures to accompany the recipes. While reading I started to think about how sad it was that my lovely M didn't get to have any of his family's traditional Springerles cookies this holiday. In that moment of weakness I put behind my hatred for this plant called Anise and decided to make Ice Cream flavored with it. If you aren't really sure what I'm talking about, Anise has a flavor that resembles licorice, fennel, and tarragon emphasis on the licorice. I really don't like it at all - especially in those Austrian treats they gobble up by the handful (or bucket full if they have the chance). I was highly unsure what to expect, but I took David Lebovits' word for it (I guess he hates it too) and used the seeds for flavor in said experimental ice cream.
Since the cream is flavored using the seeds it is quite a bit more mild than anything using extract. The aroma that came from toasting the seeds and steeping them with hot cream was rich and nutty with just a hint of licorice coming through. Once I finished the cream base (chilled and churned) I snuck a little taste and lo and behold I actually thought it was good. Amazing! M snuck some spoonfulls before we froze it and decided it was going to be fantastic (though I'm not sure that was his choice word). It was hard to keep him out of the ice cream container for the next few days following.
No, I'm not some controlling baking witch who tempts my husband with ice cream he can't eat... I just wanted him to wait for the vessel. Mr. Lebovits mentions in the recipe that he enjoys this ice cream in a profiterole with chocolate sauce drizzled on top. Who wouldn't really? So I decided to try making them too. Since I was planning so many fancy treats to accompany this delicioso ice cream I decided to make an event of it. Ice Cream Night! Basically, we have to share all of this fat with our friends so we don't explode out of our little 750 sq ft apartment. Getting fat with your friends couldn't be more enjoyable.
The Profiteroles were a bit of a challenge. I don't believe I had ever had one before. I'm not drawn to cream puffs (I hear beard papa is pretty good) so I have never had the itch to make them. I had never seen them made. I had no idea what the dough should look like. While the Ice Cream recipes provide very explicit instruction, some of the extra recipes - like profiteroles - could use some more info (weblink below is much better). My first attempt was pretty bad to say the least. I didn't mix the dough correctly in the beginning - liquid was not hot enough - so I ended up adding too much flour and turned what was supposed to be airy puffs into dense cracker biscuits. You see the picture. You know it's true. I just wanted to remind you we all have bad baking experiences - but that shouldn't make you want to give up. I didn't and I only had an hour before guests were supposed to arrive for ice cream and Profiteroles. It would have been sad without them.
Determined to succeed, I flipped open the mac and perused the internet for advice for what I did wrong. I found a lovely video from a Barefoot Contessa episode and spent the next five minutes watching Ina make some beautiful airy puffs. In the end I combined both recipes to make what I feel was the perfect vessel for this ice cream. They actually puffed like they were supposed to - and they were the perfect size for a little scoop of ice cream. Topped with some decadent chocolate sauce, they were quite irresistible. I also converted some Anise haters like myself. They liked my ice cream more than the back up (I bought some extra just so we wouldn't run out). I really like when things turn out well. It makes me happy to feed people.
1 C whole milk
1 stick butter
2 tsp sugar
1 C flour
1 T milk + 1 egg yolk for brushing tops (optional)
Preheat oven to 425˚F. Over medium heat, melt butter with milk, sugar, and salt to scalding. Add in all of the flour at once - this is important - and stir like mad until it forms a ball in the pan. Keep stirring over the heat for a couple of minutes. Immediately plop the dough into your food processor (or you can stir like mad with a wooden spoon and your arm power) and add the eggs all at once. It is a good idea to crack them all into a measuring cup to speed along the process and insure that the eggs don't cook. Pulse to combine and run on high until the mixture is fluffy and all egg is incorporated - 30 seconds tops. (If doing this by hand, mix in one egg at a time very quickly). Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large 1/2 inch tip and pipe 1 1/2 inch puffs onto a silicone mat lined baking sheet. Leave about 1 inch between puffs. Bake for 20 minutes, turn off the oven and leave for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. They should have a nice cavity in the middle for your ice cream. Cut in half across the middle and fill. Serve with Chocolate Sauce, or candied nuts.
Oh, and M's grandma was so sweet to send some cookies to her lovely grandson after Christmas! He still has some in a little snowflake container in the kitchen. I believe he is milking them for as long as possible. There will come a day when I am forced to make these licorice cookies for M, but until then Grandma can do the honors.