Orange Curd Creamsicle Floats

Orange Curd Creamsicle Float  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Orange Curd Creamsicle Float | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Afternoon Tea to Go”

The Set-up: Ina is making recipes for a celebratory tea party at her friend Beth’s new flower shop in Amagansett.

The Menu: Daisy Shortbread Cookies, Red Velvet Cupcakes, Orange Curd

0:52 – Ina has decided that a proper English tea strikes just the right note for the opening of the new flower shop location, but I’m pretty sure the British never ate Red Velvet Cupcakes.

1:24 – Wearing my "I Hate Red Velvet" merit badge today. I’ve just never understood the appeal of something to violently and unnaturally flavored.

2:06 – I can’t be the only one who’s thinking of the Steel Magnolias “bleedin’ armadillo groom’s cake” can I?

3:10 – I’m going to try to focus on the cooking now and Ina’s Pro Tip #1: use an ice cream scoop to portion cupcakes and muffins equally.

4:33 – We’re jetting over to Beth’s new flower shop where she’s taking her cues from the tea party theme and making the table arrangements in a silver tea service and vintage tea tins. Super cute.

5:01 – Back to Ina where she’s preparing to frost the Red Velvet Cupcakes with their traditional cream cheese frosting.

6:19 – I’m always curious to see when Ina will break out the piping bag and when she goes for the more rustic, homemade look.

10:25 – Onward to the Daisy Shortbread Cookies which start with Ina’s classic shortbread dough recipe.

11:37 – Pro Tip #2: Shortbread dough should be chilled, but still pliable and well floured when rolling it out into cookies.

12:08 – Pro Tip #3: Keep turning and moving the dough around as you roll it out to keep it from sticking to the board. Any cracks in the edges can just be pressed back together.

13:20 – Ina says she loves shortbread and uses it for all sorts of cookies and tart shells – a multipurpose dough!

14:44 – Over to Beth at the shop who’s putting the final touches on the loveliest buffet table.

15:36 – The cookies are out of the oven and they look perfectly golden and quite substantial as Ina frosts them with white glaze and tops them with yellow buttons of white chocolate.

19:49 – Now for the Orange Curd, Ina’s twist on the classic lemon or lime curd.

20:23 – We see all of the steps – orange zest, mixing, cooking – but at quite a clip without much description along the way. I wish she would spend a little more time on the process…

21:05 – Ina is serving the Orange Curd with fresh, long-stemmed strawberries on a very simple white platter. Pro Tip #4: White dishes show off the colors and textures of the food really well.

22:17 – The tea party is at a sedate simmer as Beth’s customers sip from Wedgewood tea cups and rave over Ina’s treats.

23:40 – Fast-forward to the end of the day when Beth delivers a thank you bouquet of blue muscari to Ina at the barn.

26:26 – It’s Ask Ina time and all the questions will be tea party related. Byron asks if Ina has a favorite finger sandwich? She says yes, and recommends Herbed Goat Cheese Sandwiches with thinly sliced English cucumbers. Yum.

27:02 – Belinda asks for suggestions on how to make tea sandwiches ahead of time? Ina says to assemble the sandwiches, then store them on a parchment paper lined sheet pan with a layer of damp paper towel over the top and wrap the entire thing tightly in plastic before refrigerating.

28:58 – Eric fell in love with clotted cream in England and would like to know how to find something similar in the States? Ina says mascarpone is the closest thing she’s found and gorgeously layers a scone with it and strawberry jam. Amazing.

29:45 - In case you were wondering we don't see Ina hoover up that scone, but I bet as soon as the camera switched off it was G-O-N-E.

Final Thoughts:
It’s so hard to resist rolling dough out too thinly, how does Ina maintain her self control to keep it 1/4 inch thick?

I don’t really drink tea, but now I really want to have a tea party…

If anyone could change my mind about RVCs it’s Ina, but I’m still cringing over the food coloring.

Orange Curd Creamsicle Float   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Orange Curd Creamsicle Float | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
It’s been about a year since I last made a citrus curd and it was about time to refresh my memory with by trying Orange Curd. I probably should have reviewed my post from last summer, but imbued with a sense of covering known territory I dove right in; confident that since the Lemon Curd Tart of my memory was so straightforward that this version would give no trouble. Alas, it was trickier than I remembered.

Mixing – I did vaguely remember the pre-cooked curd looking very odd and it does. Like a curdled, vile mess liberally seasoned with orange zest. Not a very appealing start to something that ultimately tastes wonderful, but forewarned is forearmed. Don’t be frightened off just keep going!

Temperature – The recipe calls for room temperature butter and eggs and I’d recommend leaving the butter out overnight and the eggs for several hours to reach the right temperatures. My butter was fully softened, but the eggs a little on the cool side – not ideal.

Cooking – I unhelpfully didn’t leave any notes to myself on the length of cooking time, so let me do better now: 10 minutes is what’s recommended in the recipe, but I found it took somewhat longer, probably due to the eggs being colder than recommended. More helpful is to watch the texture for cues about “doneness” – when the curd has been cooked enough it will be thick, smooth, and nearly opaque; somewhere in the neighborhood of pudding in consistency.

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, 100%, especially since there’s no tart shell involved this time. I subbed a microplane grater and a handheld mixer for the food processor/stand mixer pieces. After that all I needed was a large mixing bowl, 2 quart sauce pan, measuring cups, a wooden spoon, and a large food storage container. If you’re making floats or sundaes, then an ice cream scoop, glasses and a jigger will be helpful additions.

The Verdict:
I made Orange Curd as a dessert for company, originally intending to serve it in a tart, but then a flash of inspiration and an excellent suggestion from Mike turned it into a topping for boozy Creamsicle Floats (recipe below). Unlike lemons, which are unflinchingly tart, oranges have a mellower flavor and need firm boundaries to prevent them from becoming cloying. The addition of sparkling soda and a splash of Grey Goose was just what the doctor ordered to balance out the sweetness in our floats. A perfect end to the meal.

Orange Curd Creamsicle Float   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Orange Curd Creamsicle Float | Image: Laura Messersmith

Orange Curd Creamsicle Float (serves 4)

Ingredients:
4 (12 ounce) cans San Pellegrino Aranciata or Aranciata Rossa soda
4 ounces Grey Goose vodka, divided (optional)
4 tablespoons Orange Curd
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1 orange, segmented

Instructions:
Chill both the vodka and orange soda in advance. Assuming a hot day, take the ice cream out of the freezer 4-5 minutes before serving and allow to soften slightly, longer if it’s cold outside. If it’s a very hot day, chill the glasses too.

Scoop a generous portion of ice cream (1/4 – 1/3 cup) into a roundish ball and place into the glass. Softened ice cream and an ice cream scoop will make this easier, but the results will be the same regardless of how perfect the scoop is. Your preference here on whether your glass and appetite warrant a second scoop.

Add 1 tablespoon of Orange Curd on top of each scoop of ice cream. Pour in 1 ounce of vodka to each glass before filling the remainder of the glass with orange soda, about 6-8 ounces per glass.

Garnish with a segment or two of fresh orange. Drink immediately!

Orange Curd Creamsicle Float   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Orange Curd Creamsicle Float | Image: Laura Messersmith

Chicagoland + Reading Material

I’m spending the weekend in the greater Chicagoland area to celebrate the bridal festivities of my sister-in-law, which if all goes to plan will result in lots of great food and wonderful times. I didn’t want to leave you hanging though and so without further ado I present a smattering of Internet fun for your amusement.

Reading Material:

Berries are seriously such divas! Good thing Food52 has some strategies to keep them fuzz-free a few days longer and free us from the tyranny of their delicate constitution.

Did you hear about the kerfuffle the New York Times caused when they suggested that peas belonged in guacamole? (No. Just, no.) Well, a writer from The Atlantic made the recipe. Allow me to preview: “I don’t believe in wasting avocados on an abomination.”

Lovely photography and a little French lesson courtesy of Buzz Feed. Hoping I might be the sortable kind of person…

And while we’re on the subject of French, a blast from the past: a piece from The New Yorker detailing several days of Julia Child’s promotional tour in 1974.

Remember when I spent last summer scouting the best mint chocolate chip ice cream? If Eater is right and these artisan ice cream makers have their way next summer it will be the best salt & pepper, bourbon, green tea swirl.

Minty Fresh Scouting: Chicago Edition

Black Dog 2.jpg

How is it possible that Summer feels like it’s drawing to a close when we’ve just barely reached mid-August? It was down right chilly this morning on my walk with Maddie and I’m thinking seriously of making soup today – what’s that about?

But, you’ll be glad to know that I’m resisting this early onset autumn and persevering in my search for the Best Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream with not one, not two, but three (I am seeking help at the gym…) different ice cream samples during our trip to Chicago last weekend. Honestly, when I think of the Windy City’s cuisine my mind goes more to deep dish pizza or pretzels not so much ice cream, but I have to say I was impressed by all three of the fine establishments I visited. They’re collected here for your minty pleasure.

The Scientific Part:

The rules are the same and Mint Chocolate Chip is the name of the game. (A rapper I am not.) I’m judging based on five criteria - Flavor and then the four “Cs” - Color, Creaminess, Chips, and Charm.

In my ideal world I want a dash of kitsch with my high-quality ingredients, so my preference is for pale green ice cream with intense mint flavor and deep dark chocolate shavings. Yes, I realize that this doesn’t make them ‘chips’ per se, but then they’re more smoothly incorporated with the ice cream. I’m giving extra points for a whimsical setting or special experience – that’s the Charm part.

The scoop on the contestants:

Black Dog Gelato  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Black Dog Gelato | Image: Laura Messersmith

Black Dog Gelato (Ukrainian Village/Chicago)

“Black Dog Gelato creates gourmet gelato and sorbets combining the artisanal process with inventive and intriguing flavors. Gelato is made fresh daily in small batches and begins with the simplest ingredients:  milk, cream, sugar, eggs, freshly toasted nuts, seasonal fruits, and quality chocolates.”

Bobtail Ice Cream  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Bobtail Ice Cream | Image: Laura Messersmith

Bobtail Ice Cream (Lakeview/Chicago)

“Bobtail is the only Chicago company that makes truly homemade, hard-pack ice cream. We specialize in classic, seasonal and locally-inspired ice cream flavors… use[ing] only top-quality ingredients. Bobtail combines three generations of Wilcoxon family recipes and small-town ideals with fresh-energy and an urban touch!”

PS: The Chicago Tribune says “Bobtail” a slang term derived from the nickname of the handle on an old-fashioned soda fountain. Fun fact.

Graham's Fine Chocolate & Ice Cream  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Graham's Fine Chocolate & Ice Cream | Image: Laura Messersmith

Graham’s Fine Chocolate & Ice Cream (Geneva, IL)

The Graham’s site is a bit cagey on the details, but careful research across the Internet gleaned the following info and a revelation: it’s gelato! 

“Homemade. Hand dipped. The ultimate taste in fine chocolates. Using only the finest and freshest ingredients from around the globe, we combine taste with artistry to make our signature candies.”

After a gelato taste-testing trip to Italy, [owner Bob Untiedt] came home inspired to bring this creation to his customers. “Twenty-five years ago, when we started making gelato, it was just easier to say it was ice cream,” said Untiedt, who makes all varieties with a special gelato machine.  – BataviaSun.com

Oreo Mint by Black Dog Gelato  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Oreo Mint by Black Dog Gelato | Image: Laura Messersmith

Black Dog’s Score:

Flavor – intensely minty flavor that built in intensity (5 of 5)

Color – the ideal shade of pale green! (5 of 5)

Creaminess – beautifully smooth and creamy - this is gelato after all (5 of 5)

Chips – I hate to dock points on a technicality, but actually they were Oreos… (2 of 5)

Charm – cute shop, but it lacked a certain I-don’t-know-what (2 of 5)

Total Score: 19/25

Mint Chip by Bobtail Ice Cream  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Mint Chip by Bobtail Ice Cream | Image: Laura Messersmith

Bobtail’s Score:

Flavor – gently minty and refreshing (4 of 5)

Color – a pale white, bummer (1 of 5)

Creaminess – dense and creamy, excellent texture (5 of 5)

Chips – large, thin shards of semi sweet chocolate (4 of 5)

Charm – rocking an 1950s ice cream shop vibe in a way that tiptoes at the edge of kitsch (3 of 5)

Total Score: 17/25

Green Mint Chip by Graham's Fine Chocolate & Ice Cream  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Green Mint Chip by Graham's Fine Chocolate & Ice Cream | Image: Laura Messersmith

Graham’s Score:

Flavor – gently minty would have loved a touch more cooling flavor (4 of 5)

Color – the perfect pale, Palm Beach green! (5 of 5)

Creaminess – quite creamy and smooth I should have realized it was gelato… (4 of 5)

Chips – large, thin shards of semi sweet chocolate – very similar to Bobtail (4 of 5)

Charm – old-fashioned, Wonka-style candy store + white Adirondack chairs for outdoor lounging (4 of 5)

Total Score: 22/25

Current Rankings:

For folks following these adventures at home, here are the current rankings of the ice creams and shops I’ve visited so far. Those top three spots are pretty hotly contested with representation from NYC, PA, and Chicagoland – see, no favoritism here!

1.     The Lands at Hillside Farms: 22/25

2.     Graham’s Fine Chocolate & Ice Cream: 21/25

3.     Ample Hills Creamery: 20/25

4.     Black Dog Gelato: 19/25

5.     Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream: 18/25

6.     Bobtail Ice Cream: 17/25

7.     Cayuga Lake Creamery: 16/25

8.     Sundaes and Cones: 11/25

Minty Fresh Scouting: Cayuga Lake Creamery

Cayuga Lake Creamery   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Cayuga Lake Creamery | Image: Laura Messersmith

Everyone needs a summer project; a goal to work toward over the hottest months of the year; a plan that will give meaning to an otherwise lazy series of days. I considered this question carefully and arrived at the most obvious answer: visit as many ice cream shops as possible in search of the best Mint Chocolate Chip Ice cream.

Why Mint Chocolate Chip? Mainly, because it’s my all-time favorite flavor, but also it seems like most shops offer an option that combines mint and chocolate. I’m willing to consider gelato, novelties and sorbet, but ice cream is really what I’m after. If you have recommendations on places I should try I’d love to hear them!

My fifth stop in my quest for the minty-est ice cream cone in the land took place in the gorgeous hills above Cayuga Lake in Upstate New York. I was back home visiting my family and of course had to take advantage of being back in dairy country to taste some local flavors at the aptly named Cayuga Lake Creamery, which sits above the aforementioned lake.

Cayuga Lake Creamery  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cayuga Lake Creamery | Image: Laura Messersmith

According to their site:

“Our homemade ice cream is made on the premises in small batches for excellent quality control. We start with a 14% butterfat mix from our dairy, Upstate Farms. We then add the finest ingredients available – from down the road and around the world – to create our flavors.”

Mint Chocolate Chunk: Mint ice cream (we use white mint) with lots of chocolate chunks.”

I would have liked to give higher scores here, but the lack of minty-ness and pale color really hurt Cayuga Lake Creamery’s chances. This is not to say it isn’t worth trying since the ingredients were high quality, but I’d probably go for a different flavor next time.

The Scientific Part:

The five criteria are Flavor and then the four “Cs” - Color, Creaminess, Chips, and Charm.

I like a dash of kitsch with my high-quality ingredients, so my preference is for pale green ice cream with intense mint flavor and deep dark chocolate shavings. Yes, I realize that this doesn’t make them ‘chips’ per se, but then they’re more smoothly incorporated with the ice cream. I’m giving extra points for a whimsical setting or special experience.

Mint Chocolate Chunk by Cayuga Lake Creamery   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Mint Chocolate Chunk by Cayuga Lake Creamery | Image: Laura Messersmith

Cayuga Lake Creamery’s Score:

Flavor – not that minty and also unfortunately a bit strawberry-ish due to cross-pollination (2 of 5)

Color – a peppermint pattie white, sigh (1 of 5)

Creaminess – wonderfully and thick creamy (5 of 5)

Chips – dark chocolate pieces, yum. (4 of 5)

Charm – roadside stand way out in the country, corn fields clearly visible (4 of 5)

Total Score: 16/25

Current Rankings:

For folks following these adventures at home, here are the current rankings of the ice creams and shops I’ve visited so far. Those top three spots are pretty hotly contested!

1.     The Lands at Hillside Farms: 22/25

2.     Ample Hills Creamery: 20/25

3.     Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream: 18/25

4.     Cayuga Lake Creamery: 16/25

5.     Sundaes and Cones: 11/25

Cayuga Lake Creamery   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Cayuga Lake Creamery | Image: Laura Messersmith