When children are sick — particularly with fevers or stomach maladies — I firmly believe that you need to do whatever it takes to persevere. The laundry piles up, the menu plan goes out the window, and work projects take a hit. Instead, there is unlimited movie-watching and snuggles. You shift into the survival mode you might remember from the days of having a small infant. It is beautiful in its way, but also taxing. I’m glad to be the nurse on duty with our dear daughters, but the constant demand for my attention does eventually take a toll on me. My body will tell me what I need to do to cope, however, and I often find that I’m obsessing over an idea, usually about creating something wonderful.
In this past season of illness, I noticed a refrain in my mind: “What am I doing sitting around when I could be making Jeni’s Ice Cream ???” Not that I was actually sitting around — I was rubbing tummies and dispensing one-ounce servings of flat Sprite at 15-minute intervals. But I hadn’t done much cooking and I had an itch to test out a new flavor idea. Finally, during one of Lucy’s naps, Rosie and I took action and made a batch of Jeni’s vanilla.
My ice cream sous chef.
After freezing it in the ice cream maker, I studded it with cubes of toasted pound cake that I had soaked in a honey and sweet wine syrup. Then I threw in a handful of chopped salted almonds. It was pretty amazing, and just the kind of therapy I needed to pull me through an ER visit. But don’t feel like you need to wait until you have a sick family member in the house to make it!
Honey Vin Santo Almond Cake Ice Cream
adapted from Jeni’s Ice Cream
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1½ ounces cream cheese, softened (3 tablespoons)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1¼ cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Honey Vin Santo Syrup (recipe below)
2-3 slices of pound cake (store-bought is fine, homemade is a bonus)
¾ cup roasted and salted almonds, chopped (I like Trader Joe’s brand)
Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch. In another large bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt until smooth.
In a large 4-quart saucepan, combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, sugar, and corn syrup. Bring the milk mixture to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Off the heat, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
Gradually whisk the hot milk into the cream cheese until smooth, then stir in the vanilla extract. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes. (Alternatively, you can refrigerate for at least 8 hours, then proceed.)
Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister (the best way is to snip off one of the bottom corners of the ziploc bag and squeeze) and spin until thick and creamy (about 25 minutes).
While the ice cream is freezing, lightly toast the slices of pound cake. Brush them with the cooled Honey Vin Santo Syrup generously — you want them to be nicely saturated, but not soaked. Cut into ½ inch pieces. Get your chopped almonds ready too.
When the ice cream is thick and icy, start your layering process. Sprinkle some cake and almonds in the bottom of your storage container, then dollop some ice cream on top. Alternate mix-ins and ice cream (I did probably four or five layers) until you’ve exhausted your supply of ingredients. Press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface of the ice cream, then seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.
Honey Vin Santo Syrup
Mix equal parts of vin santo (or any sweet wine will work) and honey (I used about ¾ cup of each) in a small saucepan. Add a couple tablespoons of brown sugar. Simmer until sugar is dissolved, then cool. You won’t use all the syrup in this recipe, but it will keep for a good long time in the fridge. Try pouring a bit over the ice cream for a sundae, or using it to sweeten your iced coffee.