Monthly Archives: October 2008

Cider Season

During an early fall picnic in Prospect Park, this honeybee was attracted by the first spiced cider of the season and fell into a cup. I scooped her out, and once dry she helped clean up the droplets left in the cup. She was not, however, much help with the crossword.

I share the bee’s enthusiasm for warm cider fragrant with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, though I have yet to tumble into a cup of it. (Maybe I just need to find bigger cups.) Once the weather cools down and the greenmarkets fill with apples, I start lugging home cider to mull, drink cold, and use in other recipes.

The credit for this recipe goes to Ian, who loves cider more than any person or bee I’ve met. I usually just toss everything into a pot and strain it out, but he’s devoted enough to tie whole spices in cheesecloth and carefully crush them to extract more flavor.

Mulled Cider

  • 1/2 gallon apple cider, non-pasteurized
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 cloves
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • Cheesecloth
  • Cotton twine

Cut a 6 inch square of cheesecloth, double thickness. Place all the spices in a ziploc bag and smash with a meat mallet, steel travel mug, or whatever you have handy. Transfer the spices to the center of the cheesecloth square, gather the corners, and tie with a piece of twine. Pour the cider into a large nonreactive pot and add the spice bundle. Bring almost to a boil over high heat, then when the cider steams, reduce heat to low and simmer at least 15 minutes. The spices will continue to infuse the cider the longer it sits. If you like, you can add a 2-inch strip of lemon rind (bright part only) to the spice bundle. Don’t add any additional sweetener, since the cider is sweet enough on its own.

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It takes two

Two people in search of dessert. Two ice cream add-ins. Two tries to get the custard right. Two spoons for digging in.

Ian and I were in the mood for ice cream this weekend, and as we walked through my neighborhood supermarket, we tried to think of what kind of ice cream we’d like to make. We were in the cookie aisle when he suggested cinnamon graham crackers. Of course, only the regular kind was in stock, so I suggested we make a quick batch of our own cinnamon grahams.

I’ve been eager to try this particular recipe for a while, especially since it’s been years since I last made graham crackers at home. I just needed a reason, and I think we can all agree that ice cream is one of the best reasons to do anything. The homemade graham crackers are really the star of the show, at least in my opinion, but it’s thanks to the supporting actors, spiced chocolate and turbinado custard, that they work so well. Graham crackers fresh from the oven and dusted with cinnamon sugar are so sensual a pleasure that it’s hard to believe they were invented to staunch unhealty carnal urges. But then, the Victorians were occasionally mistaken on other topics as well.

When we were planning the ice cream, we’d talked about chocolate and cookies, but I got so swept away by the idea of making those graham crackers that I forgot about the chocolate part of the plan until after we made the custard. Luckily, I have a stash of mysterious Valhrona cinnamon-chili chocolate balls, and they turned out to be the perfect match for this recipe. Any cinnamon spiced chocolate would be great here, though, or you could just use your favorite non-spiced chocolate and increase the cinnamon in the custard to 1/2 tsp and add a pinch of cayenne.

Spiced Chocolate Graham Cracker Crunch Ice Cream

  • 2 1/2 c milk
  • 4 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 c turbinado sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c chopped chocolate bits (I used cinnamon-chili dark chocolate balls from Valrhona)
  • 1c broken graham cracker bits (I made the Nancy Silverton recipe listed on 101 Cookbooks)

In a small sturdy pot, whisk the cornstarch and sugar together. Stir in 2c milk. Turn the heat to medium high until the mixture boils and foams, whisking all the while. Turn the heat to low and cook 1 minute to thicken and get rid of the raw cornstarch taste. Remove from heat and whisk in the cinnamon, vanilla, and remaining 1/2 c milk. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate at least 4 hours or until the custard is thoroughly chilled.

Pour the chilled custard into your ice cream maker. When it’s pretty much done churning, stir in the chocolate and graham cracker bits by hand. Plop into storage containers and freeze at least 2 hours to firm up before scooping.

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