(Vegan) Bangkok peanut ice cream.

vegan bangkok peanut ice cream

vegan bangkok peanut ice cream

It always surprises me around this time of year that summer hasn’t technically ended. Less so when I hear about sweltering heat in LA or abiding humidity in Florida, but at least around these parts, it feels like fall.  We’re retiring our AC and pulling out sweaters. The air has a crisp snap to it in the mornings; the leaves are edging golden. The subway fills up more on my way to work, and I’m back to coming home from work in the cool gloss of darkness.

At the same time, there are still fleeting hints of summer around, even if it doesn’t feel like it outside. The afternoons are sunny, and the local markets are still overflowing with summer produce. This past weekend, I came home with a bounty of white nectarines that were sweeter than candy. And this week, I’m still eating ice cream. This (dairy-free, vegan!) Thai peanut version, to be specific.

vegan bangkok peanut ice cream

Truth be told, I’m kind of overdue for a homemade vegan ice cream.  Eating a lot of lactose almost always makes me uncomfortable, but because I’m bad, I do it anyways – clearly.  And clearly again.  (I’m single-handedly setting back the cause of people with mild food intolerances.)  But after a few too many internal struggles, and after coming across an abundance of gorgeous dairy-free ice creams this summer (just look here and here!), I thought it was time to own up, because frankly, the vegan versions are just as good — if not better!

This is a riff on a Jeni’s flavor I’ve been meaning to try for a long time.  Her Bangkok Peanut ice cream has fascinated me ever since a friend came back from a Jeni’s in Nashville raving about it, and I thought it’d be the perfect place to start with vegan ice cream, given that it already contains coconut milk, and all her ice creams are egg-free to begin with.  In addition to the cornstarch and corn syrup combination Jeni already uses to fortify her ice cream, I added a tablespoon of bourbon to keep the ice away, as per Ashley’s tip to add alcohol, and replaced the cream cheese in her formula with a little extra peanut butter.

I was completely in love with the taste and texture that resulted. It was the fluffiest, softest ice cream I’ve ever made, with a thick and creamy texture that’s reminiscent of gelato. And just like Jeni says, the taste is like pad Thai in ice cream, in the best, least-weird way possible — it has a subtle coconut flavor, the smoothest, richest peanut butter taste, and a punchy edge from the cilantro and red pepper I ended up topping it with.  To me, it’s an ideal bridge between late summer and early fall.  Cool and refreshing, but creamy and decadent enough to be comforting, especially with the touch of heat from the cayenne.

I hope you’re all having a great last Wednesday of summer!

vegan bangkok peanut ice cream

vegan bangkok peanut ice cream

[Read more...]

Mooncakes!

homemade mooncakes, for food52

For as long as I can remember, the Mid-Autumn Festival has been one of my favorite holidays. It means it’s time for the best dessert known to me –- mooncakes. I am obsessed with mooncakes. Dense and rich, with intensely sweet, velvety-smooth fillings and a vermilion duck yolk in the center, they’re so good that I used to wait all year for the few months in the fall when they’d appear on the shelves.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be in Hong Kong right around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival. In Hong Kong, mooncakes are something artisanal -– in August and September, the Peninsula Hotel will sell only a limited number of extravagantly priced boxes, while the regular Hong Kong bakeries turn to selling almost nothing else, their shelves filled to bursting with every variety you can imagine. They’re traditionally given as gifts during the holiday, since the Mid-Autumn Festival is a little bit like a Chinese Thanksgiving, and a time for family reunions. But maybe I kept a stash in my fridge that year, just for me. You know … maybe.

Being away from mooncake mecca this year, I thought I’d try something different and make them from scratch. I expected them to be finicky, or at best a poor imitation of storebought cakes, but they were wonderful, and not at all as hard as I thought they would be.  All you need is one of these nifty molds from handy Amazon, and a few specialty items from the Asian market.  And the result is a mooncake that strips away everything heavy and indulgent about the dessert, but is just as delicious and nostalgic as the original.

Happy zhongqiu jie to anyone celebrating!

homemade mooncakes, for food52

white lotus paste

white lotus paste

white lotus paste

homemade mooncakes, for food52

homemade mooncakes, for food52

homemade mooncakes, for food52

homemade mooncakes, for food52

homemade mooncakes, for food52

homemade mooncakes, for food52
[Read more...]