My brain is soft like this ice cream I made to fight off idleness.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It is done.

Final papers. Over. Finito. Collectively I wrote about 80 pages worth of research in the past 4 1/2 months. I'm burnt out. Toasted. Fried. Beaten. And every other food related euphemism I can think of for just plumb tuckered out. (It's not plum, that would just be too perfect.)

Just one problem. I have no idea what to do with myself. I'm not one to have lots of ample time, so what I do manage to balance out is usually neurotically planned to the second so I can squeeze every possible moment of freedom out of that rare mini-stretch of time. I'm like a man sucking down the last drop of water from his near dry canteen in some futile attempt to ward off a parched and sun scorched death. In a way it's kind of sad how efficient I am about my lounging about and procrastination.

There is one academic caveat to my my chrono-affluent dilemma, and that is I do have to finish a 30 page thesis proposal on Slow Food rhetoric (Any Slow Food members in Sac able to sneak me into an event or two this summer for my research? I can't afford the tickets.). Still, right now? Right now my brain cannot process anymore information. In fact it's actually rejecting it and demands I fill it with episodes of Sex and the City and Justice League and the small stack of books I have been meaning to read.

But even that only kills so much time before my brain stonewalls even the most frivolous youtube video or video game or bike ride. I need to occupy my hands and left brain. I need to learn and try and make before all creativity goes *thhhbbblllllpppt*. I actually find myself right now not so much writing but typing in a fugue state without really comprehending or giving attention to the words going on the screen. It's just all a endless string of letters.

I keep my cookbooks close to my workspace and not in the kitchen. It sounds odd, I know, but there's reason behind this which is that they sort of give me a way to break from the stuff that forces my brain to make the words in my head. A happy place to escape to right in arms reach. The pictures, the combinations, the dialogue of cookbooks all sort of snaps me out of my vacant stare - cookbooks are my intellectual and creative smelling salts.

Ice cream sounds nice right now. I actually have a cookbook I received from my brother and sister-in-law that I still have yet to open. How sad is that? So I plan to open it up and find something tasty, something fun, something jaunty and radical and tomorrow, I'm going to fucking make it and start my mini-summer vacation, week off before I start to study again break with a bit of a sweet bang. It's got a few interesting ice cream recipes to try (it means nothing, David; you know that when it comes to ice cream you're still my favorite boy to dance with).

Orange ice cream with dates it is to be then. (Chopped and dried dates mind you. Fresh ones are pricey.)
The recipe comes from my long time neglected copy of In The Sweet Kitchen: The Definitive Baker's Companion by Regan Daley. It's fabulous book that's basically a class in desserts. And I mean a class. There aren't a lot of recipes - enough in various sections like pies, or frozen treats to give you practice in method but still make something one might call haute cuisine. But when I say class you need to understand that this is a 700 page tome of tools, methods, chemistry, history, ingredients, and so on. So far it's a fabulous read and it explains the science and chemistry without being to textbook-ish.

As I said before the recipes are a practice in method and technique - the problem is nothing is really simple when it comes to the recipes for the most part. The book kind of just tosses you in the deep end with recipes that utilize a lot of different practices and steps, but in the end you get a lot done and learn a lot along the way. It's not a learning mode tailor made for everyone but I happen to love it. Learn from your mistakes or make none at all and either way you learn a lot of techniques and methods all in one go.

While my brain was for the most shut off that night but this helped turn it back on. By the time the custard thickened in this orange-creamsicle tasting brew I was awake. Chatting with friends, making plans, and fervently bandaging my knuckles after an unfortunate and garish incident with the rasp while zesting oranges (after a quick disinfecting of vodka followed by a shot or three, that is).

I crashed after prep and clean up and churned it the next morning after allowing it to chill all night. A warm breakfast of Earl Grey tea and ice cream covered with chopped and dried dates perked me awake. I realized I should try to sit down, relax,and enjoy the lack of higher brain functions - it doesn't happen often that I get to actually do nothing. I plan to go outside and lay down on the grass and take in the smell of fresh air and growing trees. Actually stride through the farmer's market rather than dash madly to get back home and start my chores and errands. Maybe even *gasp* read a book for fun, not skim it due to time constraints.

After, perhaps, another bowl of ice cream.

(By the by, there's a new post up at The Rhetoric of Rhubarb. Hope you enjoy that while eating a bowl of this delicious and rich ice cream.)
Orange Ice Cream with Dates
(I added vanilla for a more creamsicle taste. Regan says to mix in fresh ones but dried should be added on top else they become mealy when cold.)
About 1 1/2 quarts

2 cups half&half
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons of orange zest
1/2 vanilla bean, seeded (I used an old husk that I had lying around which was fine)
6 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
chopped dried dates

1. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan combine the half&half, vanilla bean, 1 tablespoon of orange zest, and one cup of cream. Place over medium-high heat until bubbles break the top. Take off heat and let flavors infuse for five minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk the yolks and sugar together till pale. After the hot liquid has infused add a small portion to the eggs while whisking, fully incorporating it. Add a little more. Then some more. Then add the whole of it till you have one good custardy mixture. Add the orange juice and fish out the vanilla bean husk.

3. Place over a pot of simmering water creating a double boiler. Stir with a wooden spoon for 10 minutes. Remove bowl from heat. Add the remaining cream and orange zest. Place in fridge with plastic wrap covering it with a vent hole or two to allow steam to escape and to prevent a skin from forming on the surface. Chill for 4 hours or overnight.

4. Place in ice cream machine and churn per manufacturer's instructions. Added chopped dates and serve.


  1. This looks great. I love orange and cream in desserts. It goes so far beyond creamsicles. Could you incorporate fresh dates into this? I've been getting amazing dates at the Farmer's Market and am looking for things to do with them (besides just eat them, I mean. They're like candy).

  2. Kate - Yeah, just chop up fresh ones and add them into the last few minutes of churning.

  3. That sounds delicious. I want to steal my parents' ice cream maker so bad.

    As a student, I totally get the needing to actually be doing something during "down time." I started baking because it was a nice break from research papers and kept me feeling like I was doing something and not just wasting time.

  4. I've thought about getting an ice cream maker here and there. You inspire me to pursue that thought! You recently made Apricot Riesling Jam. Since you have a bit of time now, how about Apricot Riesling ice cream?

  5. Lynn - I think a sorbet of that flavor would rock.

  6. This sounds yum!

    FYI - citrus oils are commonly used in aromatherapy due to their waking properties. This could be why you perked up after zesting them oranges. :)

  7. Congrats on your recently acquired "chrono-affluence." Ice cream does indeed sound like just the thing to fill the gaping hole left by papers and exams!

  8. I have to admit that when I saw the first pic of this post I immediately hoped for bacon ice cream.

    I'm perfectly happy with your normal fruity variety of icy deliciousness, but BACON! I hope you can understand my disappointment.

  9. Hi: I've been reading your blog for months, and I just wanted to congradulate you on getting you final paper out. I completely feel your pain...I myself am almost there. Cooking is so awesome and totally eases the pain when papers and research suck your soul.

    Thanks so much for all your great posts and cupcake concoctions.

  10. this looks great... yummy... i just cant resist ice cream... definitely gonna try this... thanks for sharing..


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