I am a loyal customer to places that I have genuine affection for. I will go back for years and order the same things over and over again if there are truly dishes that make me happy. Since I was a little girl I have enjoyed the coffee and ice cream at a place known as Coffee and Cream in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. My mother would take me there after trips to the library, it has a deep nostalgia factor for me. They roast their own coffee in a huge machine by the door, so the shop always smells fantastic, and they serve local ice cream in a variety of flavors. In addition to this they also sell baked goods like cookies and bagels.
A few years ago on a chilly fall afternoon they were advertising a special, where they took one of their large ginger cookies, heated it up a bit in the microwave, and topped it with pumpkin ice cream. It was one of the most fantastic things I have ever eaten. I remembered it all year and the following October I headed back intent on ordering it again. I didn't see a sign for the special, but they had ginger cookies and they had pumpkin ice cream. I asked the girl behind the counter if she knew about the special from last year. She blinked at me.
The thing about places like this is they employ a rotating cast of teenage staffers, essential to the economy of girls 16-19 years old, but fairly useless in remembering the history of a business. I patiently explained about the cookie and the heating and the ice cream. She looked at the register in terror. "Um, let me go ask how to ring that up," and she scurried off to find the manager. What the big deal was about just ringing me up for a cookie and a scoop of ice cream I'm not sure, but eventually she got herself sorted out and I got my dessert.
I have gone to great lengths to continue to get my fall treat every year. One year I missed the window of when they had pumpkin ice cream and was nearly beside myself with grief. Since Will and I usually back and forth to New York by a bus whose station is in Doylestown, I convinced Will's parents to take us into town early to catch the bus last year, just so I could eat this desert. Each time I ordered I had to explain to the new crop of teenagers how to make this treat all over again. This year I finally decided that as a permanent resident of New York and the proud owner of an ice cream machine, I needed to stop being a slave to locale and the blank stares of teenage girls. I was getting my fall treat dammit, even if I had to make it myself.
I hunted for recipes. Now that I had conquered my fear of baking, I could handle cookies. It was especially important that the cookies be soft, so they could be broken apart with a spoon. This meant no switching out the Crisco for butter, like I did last Christmas when I produced a batch rather difficult to eat cookies on the recommendation of a Times article. I was fortunate to find a recipe on Epicurious that actually billed itself as Soft Ginger Cookies. The website failed me on a pumpkin ice cream recipe, so I had to look elsewhere. Food Network only had a recipe submitted by a viewer, not one that they had tested. I found a few more on the less rigorously tested recipe sites, and was wary. This was an important desert, not to be trifled with. That's what desserts like trifles are for. I finally found a solid looking recipe on the Williams Sonoma website, and was ready to go.
First up, ice cream. It's important to note here that little direction where the pumpkin and vanilla need to be wisked together and then chilled for 3 hours. I missed that so I didn't get started on the custard until three hours after I had meant to. Oops.
- 1 cup fresh pumpkin puree or canned unsweetened
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (Yeah, I'll pretend I
grated some nutmeg. Sure...)
- 1 Tbs. bourbon
In a bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 8 hours. (Again, oops)In a heavy 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 1/2 cups of the cream and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar. Cook until bubbles form around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the egg yolks, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg, the remaining 1/2 cup cream and the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar. Whisk until smooth and the sugar begins to dissolve. Remove the cream mixture from the heat.
Gradually whisk about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture until smooth. Pour the egg mixture back into the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and keeping the custard at a low simmer, until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and leaves a clear trail when a finger is drawn through it, 4 to 6 minutes. Do not allow the custard to boil.
Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Place the bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice water, stirring occasionally until cool. (See Stef, that's what the strainer should look like :P) Whisk the pumpkin mixture into the custard. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours. Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturers instructions. Add the bourbon during the last minute of churning. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or up to 3 days, before serving. Makes about 1 quart.
The five egg yolk thing almost made me crazy as I stared at the bowl of five egg whites that I had remaining. I use organic cage free eggs because I'm an East Coast Liberal Elitist, and those suckers aren't cheap. I solved the problem by covering the whites, sticking them in the fridge, and making a kick ass egg white omelet with mushrooms and shallots the next morning. Not being wasteful is awesome and delicious.
As the custard chilled I worked on the cookies. When I moved out my mother practically threw her Kitchen Aid standing mixer into the moving van. She had not baked since I was nine and didn't want the massive appliance in her cabinets anymore. I took it gleefully, the thing is a war horse. It's older then I am and shows no signs of stopping. I'm pretty sure I could throw a cinderblock in there and in five minutes have a smooth meringue. I have registered for the pasta maker attachment, but as my mother never used any attachments on it I'm not even sure if that part works, so I have my fingers crossed. The Kitchen Aid makes cookie making way easy, and was even able to deal with the cup of dark molasses, which is a goo that I personally was terrified of. Sticky sticky heavy goo.
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup robust (dark) molasses
- 1/2 cup pure vegetable shortening (for the love of god,not butter)
- 1 large egg, beaten to blend
- 1/2 cup boiling water
Directions: Combine first 8 ingredients in large bowl. Add
molasses, shortening, and egg. Using electric mixer, beat until well blended. Beat in 1/2 cup boiling water. Chill dough 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll chilled dough by generous tablespoonfuls into balls. Roll in additional sugar to coat. Place dough balls 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake until cookies are puffed and cracked on top and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 12 minutes (do not overbake). Transfer cookies to racks and cool.
By the time Will got home I had cookies cooling on every available surface. I probably could have halved the recipe, but my office enjoyed the leftovers. It was time to dump the custard into the ice cream maker. According to my manufacturers instructions it should churn for 20-30 minutes. By minute 18 I was a tiny bit afraid the custard was going to pour out of the machine, it was forming so beautifully. I let it churn for about 24 minutes before I decided that, no seriously, we have to turn the machine off. As always it was a bit on the soft serve side the night I made it, but the true excitement took place the next day, after it had set in the freezer overnight. Cookie warmed and ice cream scooped, it was everything I had dreamed of all year long, but without the five minutes of explaining "No, you put the ice cream on the cookie" to a girl in a Miley Cirus tee shirt. Coffee and Cream and I are still friends though. They still make me REALLY fresh roasted coffee every time I'm in town. But as far as my very favorite autumn treat--that's now self served.
Before I sign off the week I'd like readers to know the my friend and reader of this blog Evan Reehl Ryer is part of an art show at Union Gallery at 359 Broadway. I went Friday night and it's got great pieces, so I encourage those in the area to check it out!