Time and again, I find myself sifting through memories of last summer, subconsciously comparing it to this past one. I’m reminded of the hours I’d spend in the kitchen, taking advantage of the long summer days to undertake lengthy baking projects. With no school to cut short the hours of the day, baking and decorating a layer cake became one-day processes, and cooking custard for an ice cream base was quickly followed by stirring batter for homemade cones.
As school approaches, I’m suddenly aware of the collection of memories that make up this present summer. While I was caught up in the whirlwind of living my vacation, I’d paid no attention to the zeitgeist that was forming around these passing months. But now, so close to the end of summer vacation, I’m able to look back to June, already seeped in nostalgia, and see my life for what it was at the time.
Our vacation started at the end of June, a couple of days after school let out. We were en route to Paris.
We toured the city on foot, walking for hours on end. Though our visit was one of the many times we’d visited Paris, I couldn’t help myself from drinking in every sight the bustling city had to offer.
I’ll forever remember how the endless rows of boutiques snaked around each Parisian block. How we were so captivated with what was right before us that the streets seemed to unravel beneath our feet and the rest of the city was painted to life only when our attention was finally drawn to it.
People in Paris were dressed fashionably, and they walked with purpose fueling their stride. Old and young couples alike sat at the cafes dotting the neighborhood, the conversation flowing from their mouths a cadence of French. A pair of tourists sipped coffee at an outdoor table while watching the passersby with curiosity lighting their eyes. A lone American seated a table over asked the waiter in broken French where he might find the bathroom.
We walked into pastry shops and chocolatiers, and ate an assortment of tiny macarons with rich ganache and sweet fruit jams ensconced between their shells. There were rainbows of éclairs and square lemon tarts. There was Fauchon with its neon pink decor, temporarily dousing the world in pink before the sliding doors parted to reveal the world outside alive with the remainder of the color palette.
And then we were in Oregon.
There’s nothing quite like that sudden change of atmosphere. I still get the same initial shock clicking through photographs of our vacation in Paris, momentarily transported there again, before happening across a photo of Oregon and feeling all at once displaced and unhinged.
I went from walking the streets of Paris, melodious with the French language floating through the air, to being plopped down in the US, with only the international haven of the airport to ease the transition. But at the same time, I’d forgotten how effortlessly I could familiarize myself again to the slightly nasal twang of American speech cutting through the air. How when cobblestone streets and linden trees were quickly replaced by white picket fences and rolling hills of evergreens, Paris seemed to become a place from a faraway time almost instantly as we continued our vacation in the US.
There, the weather was considerably cooler, and rain often frequented our parts. But on days when the clouds dissipated under the warmth of the sun and rainbows formed arcs in the sky, we spent them outside.
At the Oregon coast, we picnicked in an alcove surrounded by trees while seagulls flew overhead. Water lapped at the rocks lining the trees, and seaweed grew in the shallow waters by the runoff. Another day, we visited my parents’ college. Ducks swam in a pond at the center of the park, the trees overhead casting green reflections onto the water. Though this summer definitely had a different feel than the last, certain things remained the same. One of which is my infatuation with ice cream.
I’ve been planning on making this ice cream ever since I saw it on a food blog last summer. But it got pushed to the very bottom of my list as the year wore on. I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer. The ice cream’s texture is smooth as a sheet of silk. It’s rich and laced throughout with the sweet taste of burnt sugar.
It was my first time making ice cream cones as well. I was pleasantly surprised. They’re a little sweeter than store bought ones, and even when the ice cream melts and soaks into the cone, they retain their crispness. It’s rather hard to roll piping hot cookies into cone shapes, so I had to dip the ends of my cones in melted chocolate to seal the gaping hole at their bottom. Chocolate and caramel? It’s a classic pairing.
I didn’t have an ice cream cone mold, so I fashioned one out of layers of foil myself. To make your own, cut a couple of six-inch diameter semicircles out of foil, tape them together, and roll them into a cone shape.
Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk, divided
1½ cups (300 gr) sugar
4 tablespoons (60 gr) salted butter
scant ½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cups (250 ml) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the ice cream, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts/liters) over the ice, pour 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it.
Spread 1½ cups (300 gr) sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat, until caramelized, using the same method described in Step #2.
Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go.
The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Stir in 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk.
Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 160-170 F (71-77 C).
Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thoroughly chilled.
Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop
Makes eight 6” cones
1/4 cup (60 ml) egg whites (about 2 large egg whites)
7 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (90 g) sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2/3 cup (90 g) flour
2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Combine the egg whites, sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl. Stir in the salt, cocoa powder, and half of the flour. Mix in the melted butter, then stir in the rest of the flour until smooth.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a small offset spatula to spread 2 level tablespoons of batter into a circle with a diameter of 6″ (15 cm). Tracing circles onto the underside of the parchment will give you more even cones.
Bake one sheet (two cones) at a time. Start checking after 10 minutes, but depending on your oven, the baking time will be 10-15 minutes. The cookies will be golden brown throughout, with some lighter and darker spots.
Pull the sheet out of the oven and run a thin metal spatula under a circle to loosen the edges. Quickly flip it over and roll it around the cone shaped mold. Press the seam firmly against the counter to close the sides of the cone, and press the bottom together to pinch the point at the bottom. Let the cone cool slightly on the mold until it keeps its shape, then let it cool completely in a tall glass. Roll the other cone (if the cookie has cooled too much to roll, return the sheet to the oven for a minute.)
Continue to bake and roll cones with the remaining batter.