Some Kitchen Stories came into my life a year ago. Judi, the writer, and Nicole, the photographer, work together to create this beautiful, passionate space. With each post, Judi shares a fictional story that weaves through the recipe while Nicole manages to capture the essence behind her lens. This duo keeps me on my toes—each time I visit I find myself in the mind of someone new and in the kitchen of someone familiar.
Helen was a nervous sort of creature and had always been so. For the most part, that was okay. Nerves meant good manners and good grades. Usually.
She stopped on the sidewalk and pulled the paper from her bag and stared at the curved C at the top, the bottom of the letter just touching the H in her name. How could the daughter of a renowned biologist come home with a C in science?
Her mother would have to see it, she knew. Her teacher, Mr. Ballingham had made sure of it by affixing a note to the top of the paper. "Please have your mother sign this- Mr. B."
Helen stuffed the paper back in her bag and turned to the big, rambling house at the end of the road, the one they called home. Usually she loved the look of it, tall and ramshackle, so unlike the others on the lane, its windows sticking out like elephant ears. Now it looked forbidding. It offered no comfort.
Inside the house, it was chaos as usual. Ramses, her brother, had recently started walking and that had translated into climbing. She found him affixed to the bookshelf, the third shelf, and he blinked at her and waved as she dropped her school bag on the floor. She sighed and wrapped her arm around him to pull him free and carried him past the den, where the twins were setting an elaborate maze of dominoes. They looked up at her and blinked in unison before resuming their path in quiet whispers. Helen knew it was useless to speak to her sisters when they were focused on a project so she moved on without a word. In her arms, the baby squirmed. They stepped over a small mountain of plastic toys. The cat scurried past them and Ramses clapped.
The kitchen, if one could call it a kitchen, was covered in flour and milk. It clung to the cabinets and dripped from the counters. In the corner, huddled between the stove and a set of bunsen burners, her mother frowned over a cluster of papers. She too was covered in flour and milk, her salt-and-pepper hair piled high up on her head. She looked up and blinked at Helen, just like the twins, but at least Helen's face registered with her and her face cracked into a tired smile. "It's been a day."
"Yes." Helen swallowed hard. Ramses grabbed her brown hair and yanked hard and when she looked at him, he pointed to the ground with a scowl. Helen turned, walked a few steps and put him in his pen. It was really several pens cobbled together and the fence went up to the ceiling, the floor inside it covered in a foot of old mattress and pillows. In there, he could climb to his heart's content like a monkey but it didn't matter; he always escaped. The bookshelves that covered the walls of the house were far more appealing.
Helen was never one for delay. She reached into her backpack and removed the test and set it on the counter.
Her mother studied the grade and the note, studied her daughter's face, and sighed. "I'm not doing much better myself this week, " her mother said and she grabbed the test, scribbled her name at the top, and then put it on top of her own papers. She did not look at it again. "Put them away please. Out of sight. All of them." Helen reached for them but then her mother grabbed her arm and pulled her close. "Ice cream cake for dinner. How does that sound, my little wonk?"
She smelled faintly like vanilla and sulphur. And comfort, Helen thought. Pure comfort.
Dear Kristin, I truly hope you're having ice cream cake for dinner one of these nights. I hope you have a slice, offer up no apologies for it and enjoy every bite, amidst all the chaos of life and moving and work and such. Thank you for letting us play in your space this week while you sort through it all.
This past weekend, I surveyed my counters. With the start of September, it's time to start rearranging things (some people hit closets, I hit the kitchen). I have an odd kitchen set-up, a giant room for my stove and a galley kitchen for my sink and counters and I cherish every inch of work space (as I'm sure you do too, you out there, hi). I paused over my line-up of appliances and wondered if it was time, seasonally speaking, to replace the ice cream maker with the food processor (in between the stalwarts- the coffee maker and the stand mixer, not going anywhere, thank you, let's move on).
I hesitated for a moment longer because, well, yes, soups and stews and chopping is coming (hooray) but what about ice cream? Is it really over? Really? Fall brings its own flavors, I reasoned out loud to the dog; what about maple and peanut butter and dark chocolate with sea salt and… I think we know how this debate ended- the ice cream maker's not going anywhere and the processor was squeezed in beside it. After all, why do we have to choose? It's the best part of being an adult; you can have your cake and ice cream too. When you can make it yourself? Even better.
Vanilla Ice Cream Cake with Blackberry Topping
Adapted from Bon Appetit and Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home | Servings: 10-12
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 Cup of cake flour
1 Teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 Teaspoon of salt
1/2 Cup of sugar
1/4 Cup (1/2 stick) of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Large egg
1 Teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/3 Cup of whole milk
Ice cream (Vanilla Bean Ice Cream from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home)
2 Cups of whole milk
1 Tablespoon plus 1 Teaspoon of cornstarch
1 and 1/2 ounces of cream cheese (3 Tablespoons) softened (note: I put the cream cheese I need in a microwave-safe bowl and zap it for about 10 seconds. This makes it easy to whip, even if it's just been in the fridge)
1 and 1/4 Cups of heavy cream
2/3 Cup of sugar
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons of light corn syrup
1 Vanilla Bean (split and seeds scraped, pod reserved)
1/8 Teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 Cup of water
6 Tablespoons of sugar
Four 1/2-pint containers blackberries, divided
**Note: This cake will need 4 hours to firm**
Make ice cream
1. You'll need three bowls. In a small bowl, mix 2 Tablespoons of your milk with the cornstarch and whisk with a fork. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt until smooth. In a large bowl, fill with ice water and pop into freezer.
2. In a large saucepan, combine remaining milk with heavy cream, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla bean and seeds. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and set a timer for exactly 4 minutes.
3. Remove pan from heat (but keep burner going) and slowly, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return saucepan to the burner and boil for 1 minute until mixture is slightly thickened.
4. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Remove large bowl with ice bath from the freezer.
5. Pour ice cream into gallon Ziplock bag and set bag into ice bath for about 30 minutes until cold. While it's chilling, make your cake.
6. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 9-inch-diameter springform pan with nonstick spray.
7. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt 3 times.
8. Take another bowl and beat sugar and butter using an electric mixer, until blended. Add egg and vanilla; beat until thick, about 3 minutes.
9. Beat in, and alternate between, dry ingredients and milk. Spread batter in pan (layer will be thin).
10. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack. Remove pan sides. Cut enough off top of cake to make 1/2-inch-thick layer. Reattach pan sides, leaving cake layer in pan.
11. When it's time to make your ice cream, snip a corner of the plastic bag and pour into your ice cream maker and freeze according to machine's instructions. When it's done (20-25 minutes, most machines), your cake layer should be cool. Pour ice cream over cake layer. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.
12. In heavy, large saucepan stir 1/2 cup water and sugar. Add half of berries and bring to boil.
13. Reduce heat and simmer until syrup thickens, mashing berries with back of fork, about 12 minutes.
14. Pour into medium bowl; gently stir in remaining berries. Cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.
15. Using a hot knife, cut around pan sides to loosen ice cream cake. Remove pan sides. Transfer cake to platter. Spoon half of berry topping onto center of cake. Cut cake into wedges and serve, passing remaining topping separately.