Friday, April 1, 2011

Wildflower Honey Ice Cream . . . and Lemon Coriander Shortbread with Sunflower Seeds

"Flower" seems to be the operative word lately. The signs are everywhere. Daffodils rushing toward readiness,  dusky tulips shooting up against all odds, giant stalks of allium gaining height at a spectacular pace, tiny crocuses about to burst open in the grass. Not a thing is in bloom yet, but they're all working on it.

Today's recipes are in honor of those early spring flowers--the ones that make the effort to come back year after year. They let us know for certain, amidst lingering cold, that winter is truly behind us. And so, what better honey to employ in homemade ice cream than that borrowed from bees who consort with wildflowers? What better crunchy, salty item to blend into shortbread than roasted sunflower seeds?

About these recipes . . . 

If you often make homemade ice cream, you'll be unsurprised to see that this honey ice cream recipe is from David Lebovitz's spectacular book, The Perfect Scoop. I adapted it slightly from his formula for honey lavender ice cream. Though I do have culinary lavender on hand, and love it, I specifically wanted to use wildflower honey, and this honey's delicate flavor had to be unimpeded. Lavender's flavor is distinctive and it might have stolen the show. I was pretty pleased when I tasted this ice cream. One bite confirmed that omitting the lavender was the proper tactic. Wildflower honey is at the forefront here, no doubt about it.

The lemon coriander shortbread is based on Nancy Baggett's basic lemon shortbread recipe ("Iced Lemon Shortbread Fingers") from her indispensable classic, The All American Cookie Book. I adjusted Nancy's cookie by including ground coriander, salted sunflower seeds, and I opted not to use her lovely lemon icing. I also decided not to pat the dough into a 9"x9" pan as she suggests, but to roll it out to about a 1/4" thickness between parchment sheets. Then I chilled it in the freezer on a cookie sheet before cutting it, while still very firm, with cookie cutters. (That's my preferred method for dealing with cut-out cookies. It has saved my sanity time and again.)

Oh yes, about the coriander . . . At school, in the baking and pastry arts classes I've taken, we've often used herbs in non-savory recipes, so I already knew that ground coriander would blend seamlessly with the lemon. It sort of stands in the shadow of the  citrus, giving that tanginess an interesting, though subtle, boost. It's really not a weird combo at all.

Wildflower Honey Ice Cream and 
Lemon Coriander Shortbread with Sunflower Seeds

(For a printable version of these recipes, click here!)

Wildflower Honey Ice Cream
Yield: About one quart of ice cream, or slightly less.

1/2 cup wildflower honey
1 and 1/2 cups whole milk (I had no whole milk on hand so I used 1 and 1/4 cups 2 percent along with 1/4 cup of half-and-half.)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I used pure cane sugar.)
One pinch of salt
1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
Yolks from 5 large eggs

In a medium saucepan, stir together and warm up the milk, sugar, and salt.

Into a medium size bowl, pour the heavy cream. Mix the honey into the cream, stirring until it's completely blended. (If the honey is cold or too thick, you can warm it slightly in your microwave.) Set a fine mesh strainer over the bowl.

In another medium size bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Pour the warmed milk from the pan very slowly into the yolks, whisking constantly. Then, pour this whole mixture back into the saucepan.

Keep the saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly (and I mean constantly!), scraping the bottom and sides of the pan repeatedly. Cook only until the mixture starts to thicken. You'll know it's ready when you can dip a wooden spoon into the mixture and, when you pull it out, it's lightly coated. (If you cook too long, you'll end up with something as thick as pudding. Not good.)

Pour the mixture into the strainer that's sitting above the bowl of heavy cream. You can help push it through the strainer with your spoon. Stir together until completely blended.

Place the bowl over an ice bath (a larger bowl partially filled with ice and a little cold water) and let it cool, stirring periodically.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Process it in your ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer's directions. (I use the KitchenAid ice cream attachment that goes on my mixer, and whatever I'm making--ice cream, sorbet, frozen yogurt-- usually takes about 20 minutes to thicken, using only the first speed.)

Scrape the soft ice cream into a clean container, cover it securely, and freeze it for at least several hours until firm or, better yet, for at least one day.

* * * * 
Lemon Coriander Shortbread Cookies with Sunflower Seeds

Yield: About 2 to 3 dozen cookies, depending on size.

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached.)
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 and 1/2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Grated zest from one large lemon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into big chunks
1/4 tsp. salt (I used coarse kosher.)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
3 Tbsp. roasted and salted sunflower seeds 

Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Have another sheet of parchment of the same size ready.

In a medium size mixing bowl, lightly whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and coriander.

In the large bowl of your food processor, process the powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and lemon zest for approximately three minutes.

Stop to scrape the bowl periodically. Add in the butter, salt, lemon juice, and lemon extract.

Process until fluffy and fully blended.

Add in the flour mixture and pulse until smooth and well combined. Stop to scrape the bowl as needed.

Put the dough into the bowl that held the flour, and using a flexible spatula, mix in the sunflower seeds.

Place the dough on top of one of the parchment sheets. Pat it into a rough rectangle and then cover it with the other sheet. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out between the sheets to a thickness of approximately 1/4". Slide the dough, still between the sheets, onto a cookie sheet and place it in your freezer for about twenty minutes.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

When the dough is very firm but not rock hard, take it out of the freezer and take it off the cookie sheet. Peel off the top piece of parchment and place that parchment sheet onto the cookie sheet.

Leave the bottom sheet beneath the dough, and cut the dough into the desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place the cut-outs onto the parchment covered cookie sheet. The cookies will spread very little so they can be baked fairly close together. Bake for about 25 to 35 minutes, until just slightly golden brown.

Let them cool on the pan or on a rack.

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