Weekend Fare: Peppermint Ice-Cream

Peppermint ice-cream is such a delicious seasonal dessert! And, when it’s homemade, it’s nothing short of luxury! If possible, make the custard the night before you plan to use it, chilling it in the fridge overnight. If you are in a rush, stir it over the ice bath until very cool.

PEPPERMINT ICE-CREAM
(SimplyRecipes.com)

2 1/2 cups heavy cream (Costco organic is not only very cheap but also very good)
1  1/2 cups whole milk
8 large egg yolks (preferably from free range chickens)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1/2 cup crushed candy canes or hard peppermint candy

Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Make sure the sugar and salt completely dissolve.

Pour the cream into a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and set a medium-mesh sieve on top.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden or heatproof rubber spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula, about 5-7 minutes. Don’t think twice when the mixture coats the spoon — remove it from the heat immediately!

Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Then stir until cool over the ice bath. Chill mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Once the mixture is thoroughly chilled, add peppermint extract, a 1/4 teaspoon at a time, tasting the mixture after each addition, until you reach the desired level of peppermintiness.

Once chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Once the ice cream has been formed in the ice cream maker, it will be fairly soft. Fold in the crushed peppermint candy. Put in an airtight plastic container and place in the freezer for at least an hour, preferably several hours. If it has been frozen for more than a day, you may need to let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften it before serving.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

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Gluten-free Goodness: Holiday Treats

There are some really great options for gluten-free desserts that don’t compromise flavor at all! I made this macaroon cheesecake and it got rave reviews from everyone. It’s creamy and delicious – the flavor profile is wonderful!

COCONUT MACAROON CHEESECAKE
(Taste of Home)

CRUST:
1 c. flaked coconut, toasted
1/2 c. ground pecans
2 Tb. butter, melted

FILLING:
3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract

TOPPING:
1 egg white
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. flaked coconut, toasted

In a small bowl, combine the coconut and pecans; stir in butter. Press onto the bottom of a greased 9-in. springform pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Beat in extracts just until blended. Pour over crust. Place pan on a baking sheet.

Bake at 350° for 35 minutes. In a small bowl, beat egg white and vanilla until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, on high until stiff peaks form. Fold in coconut. Carefully spread over top of cheesecake.

Bake 20-25 minutes longer or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. Remove sides of pan. Refrigerate leftovers. Makes 12 servings.

We called theses peppermint chocolate meringues “Martian Eggs” when we were kids and they were an annual tradition – especially at our family gathering. The green-tinted egg like cookies are crispy on the outside and a little softer on the inside with delicious chocolate chips.

PEPPERMINT CHOCOLATE MERINGUES

2 egg whites
dash salt
2/3 c. sugar
green or red food coloring (opt.)
6 oz. mint chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat egg whites and salt until frothy. Slowly add sugar and beat until stiff. Add food coloring if desired. Fold in mint chocolate chips.

Drop on ungreased cookie sheet. Turn off oven and put cookie sheet in oven and leave in oven for 2-6 hours or until crisp on outside and chewy on inside. (Mine took 2 hours 15 minutes but it depends on the humidity.) Makes about 3 dozen.


ALMOND MACAROONS
(adapted from Christmas Cookies, by: Lisa Zwirn)

2 c. almond meal
1 1/4 c. sugar
3 lg. egg whites
1/2 tsp. almond extract
6 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (opt. – but you really should…)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 1 or 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine almond meal, sugar, egg white, and extract in lg. bowl. Beat with mixer until thoroughly combined and dough is a thick, sticky paste.

Drop the dough by level tablespoonfuls, arranging about 2 inches apart on the prepared sheets. Using a pastry brush lightly moistened with water, brush the tops and sides of the macaroons, gently pressing down on them to form smooth rounds about 1/2 in. thick and 1 3/4 in. in diameter.

Bake 15-18 minutes or until the macaroons are lightly golden. They should feel crisp on the outside but soft inside.  (Rotate cookie sheets halfway through if using two).  Cool for 5 minute, then use a thin metal spatula to remove the macaroons from the paper. Place on rack to cool completely.

CHOCOLATE: Melt chocolate and dip, drizzle or ice the cooled macaroons.

Store layered between wax paper for up to 5 days. Without chocolate, the macaroons can be frozen up to two months.  Makes about 32 cookies.