Saturday, September 20, 2014





Every year, as I grow older, time seems to pass by quicker each and every year; hour by hour, day by day, month by month, and season by season. This summer was no exception — if not, it was the fastest I had felt a season slip away, and the hot languid days passed by in a hazy blur. How could that be?
But summer was here and I have memories to prove that I had a good one: buying a new pair of sunglasses at my favorite shop and having ice cream on the way back home, having long languid conversations with close friends over champagne and dinner, going to the aquarium — for the first time in a very long time — with a close friend and then later in the week helping her move out of town (I miss her already), grabbing drinks at a tiny beer cafe with Yu on a random weeknight, lunching with my dear friend in our high school neighborhood just for old times sake (she was wearing the best hawaiian print button down shirt over a long flowing skirt), going on a girls-only outing to Hakone with my grandmother, mother, and aunt . . . Even a trip to Disneyland with my brother and his girlfriend which is something I would not be up for during any other season.
But even with all these good memories (and more), I am still not quite ready to let go of summer. There are sweaters and coats displayed in the shop windows, and the days have been much cooler with grey clouds and the rain taking place of the harsh summer sun. There are no more cicadas crying in the trees, and when the wind blows it is no longer a summer breeze. Whether I like it or not, autumn is right around the corner — or maybe it is already here — but I am still holding on. Wearing my favorite pair of summer shorts/white shoes one last time, buying the last of peaches and plums at the grocery store, listening to Lana's Summertime Sadness, and making good use of my ice cream maker.



This summer was my first with an ice cream machine. I bought one last winter, so the summer before I had hand-churned (!) all my homemade ice cream. As you can imagine, hand-churning liquid into a smooth and creamy texture it not an easy task, so I was enormously excited for this change . . . but I quickly realized that it is close to impossible to make ice cream during summertime in hot and humid Tokyo. Partly because I'm for the campaign (advocated by the Ministry of Environment) to reduce CO2 emissions and make eco-friendly choices, and partly because I am not a fan of keeping my home freezing cold, I tend to turn down my air-conditioners (or even turn them off altogether and keep the windows open at times) during the summer. Which means my kitchen is only slightly cooler than outside — which is around 35℃ — and is not the most ideal environment for my prefreeze-and-churn ice cream machine. My first batch of the season never churned into a great volume of creamy heaven, even though I let the machine run for much longer than necessary. "But summer is the season for ice cream" I whined to myself, and became stubbornly determined to figure things out. And I did, eventually. I simply started making ice cream in the evenings when it got slightly cooler, and placed my machine on a roasting tin surrounded with ice packs. It did the trick and ever since, I was able to churn out batches of creamy ice cream on random summer nights.
July passed by in a whirl and just as I began to feel summer slipping away around the middle of August, I realized that ice cream making was becoming slightly quicker. Which meant that temperatures were slowly but surely dropping. Soon it would be cool enough to make ice cream any time of the day, but before that, it was time to start thinking about my last ice cream for this summer.



I had found a recipe for "Vanilla Caramel Gelato" a while ago through pinterest, and had saved it on one of my secret boards. The photographs taken by Katerina of "Diethood" were beautiful, capturing the texture of perfect gelato well . . . perfectly. I took a mental note to try it soon. And "soon" actually came a little sooner than now — back at the end of August — but I am secretly pleased that this has turned into my end of the summer ice cream post. Even if it is by chance.
I am sure, few can resist vanilla and caramel together. It is the perfect combination of sweet and slightly bitter, and for me, it is the perfect combination to say farewell to summer and welcome autumn; caramel is something I have always associated with autumn. In ice cream form, it is perfect for serving in cones on hot summer days, as well as for serving on top of a slice of warm apple pie. The amount of caramel you add is up to you; you can have a few "ribbons" of caramel or you can have many.
Speaking of ribbons of caramel, my favorite ice cream flavor when I was in high school was "caramel ribbon". I had lost interest in it after graduating, and forgotten about the flavor altogether . . . until now. It's funny how the things that happen in your kitchen can connect you to the past. I hope that will still be the case in ten, twenty, even fifty or sixty years from now. Those are the things I ponder over as I eat my vanilla caramel swirl ice cream tonight. That, and how when the last scoop of this batch is gone, I will finally — somewhat reluctantly — say farewell to summertime.


* { vanilla caramel ribbon ice cream adapted from : diethoodvanilla caramel gelato }

{ ingredients }
< for the vanilla ice cream >
4 large egg yolks
100g sugar
250ml whole milk
250ml whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/2 vanilla bean

< for the caramel sauce >
100g granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
100ml heavy cream

{ instructions }
1. Split the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds out. Add the seeds and pod, milk, and whipping cream into a saucepan and set aside to infuse the vanilla for an hour or so. (I usually pour the milk and whipping cream into the saucepan straight from the refrigerator and infuse while waiting for the mixture to become room temperature.) Heat over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
2. While heating the milk mixture, place the egg yolks and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Whisk together with the sugar until light and thick.
3. Remove the simmering milk mixture from heat, and add the mixture in a slow stream to the egg yolk mixture while whisking vigorously. (Be careful not to cook the eggs.)
4. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon or a heat-resistant spatula until the mixture starts to thicken and coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat.
5. Pour and strain the mixture through a sieve into a clean bowl. Set the bowl over another large bowl partially filled with ice and water to create an ice bath. Add the vanilla extract and stir the base occasionally until the mixture cools down. Remove the bowl from the ice bath, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6-8 hours.
6. While cooling the mixture, prepare the caramel sauce. Place the sugar and water in a smallish-medium saucepan over low heat. Heat until the sugar dissolves and the syrup turns into a deep amber color. (Gently swirl the saucepan to get an even color if necessary, but be careful not to stir.) Remove from heat, and pour the cream in a little bit at a time. (Be careful as the syrup will be hot and bubble up furiously when the cream is added.) Stir between each addition until all the cream is incorporated and the caramel sauce is smooth.
7. Remove the chilled mixture from refrigerator, and churn in an ice cream machine following the manufacturer's instructions. When finished churning, transfer the ice cream to an airtight, freezer-safe container, drizzling in the caramel sauce every few (large) scoopfuls. (The amount of caramel sauce you add is up to you.) When all the ice cream is transferred into the container, swirl the mixture gently with a dull butter knife or such. Place the container in the freezer until ice cream is firm.

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