Hustle And Stack: Vanilla Ice Cream With Tamarind Caramel And Spicy Peanut Crumble

I am not a rise-and-grind, hustle-and-stack kind of girl.

While I recognize the value in this philosophy for some folks, it just doesn’t feel good for me. It feels frantic and crazy-making and doesn’t leave any space inside it for enjoying the fruits of your labor.

It’s a grind. A slog. An ongoing rush to get something more than what you have.

My dad, in his day, and all of the days I had with him, was a hustle-and-stack OG. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2001 and given six months to live. I quit my job and flew back East from Seattle so he could get to know his infant granddaughter in whatever time he had left. Although he positively doted on her (for the next six years), he was often too busy to do more than come up from his basement office and say hi. He traveled for his work constantly and worked through multiple bouts of chemo and radiation and many courses of experimental treatments.

In a moment of frustration, I asked him once what amount of money it would take for him to stop working long enough to come out of the basement and enjoy his family before he died. He had no answer – it was literally the hustle he liked, I think, more than the progress towards any goal.

Part of this compulsion to grind stems from fear. Fear of not having enough, being enough, or deserving enough.

But then I read this quote from Osho:

“Don’t move the way fear makes you move. Move the way love makes you move. Move the way joy makes you move.”

Yes. THIS.

Fear is oxymoronic in that it can alternately hold us back and compel us forward. Fear is the trigger that serves our flight, fight, or freeze instincts, the ones buried so deeply in our brains that we don’t even recognize that this compulsive need for hustling and stacking is just a modern-day version of fleeing from a saber tooth tiger.

The other side of this compulsion is that we never truly get to experience whatever it is we say we are seeking to experience if we are constantly hustling. There is no ease, no balance. No repose. No rest.

Of course, this ease and repose can masquerade as lazy, and the whole world will jump to tell you that time spent slowly is time wasted.

As all three regular readers of this blog can attest, I disagree with the whole world in this regard. I don’t think you can really know what it means to feel something without slowing down to feel it. You might think that “hustle and stack” has little, if anything, to do with feeling, but think back to a time when you won something. That rush of adrenaline; that quick flush of victory. For some people, it’s positively ADDICTIVE.

Today in my yin yoga class with Jessie Kates, she talked about the idea that having goals and plans in this life are good, but sometimes we get so distracted by them that we forget to slow down to take detours to do things that give us joy just because. Maybe the detours don’t make us money, or they don’t increase our social media reach, or otherwise elevate us to the lofty, random standards that others set. But WOW.

Joy? The possibility of joy? The potential to do something just because it feels good for your soul?

YES. THAT.

That I would rise-and-grind for.

I will also rise-and-grind for:

  • an early morning camping trip
  • a road trip
  • my birthday
  • Sicily’s birthday
  • Khristian’s birthday
  • most people’s birthdays, if I am honest
  • complicated cooking projects
  • a long walk in the woods
  • a heart-opening yoga class

I am done rising-and-grinding for the sake of itself, and I am certainly not making the hustling and the stacking a priority. I sound like your grandmother, adding “the” in front of “hustling” and “stacking” (as I often do with The Facebook, except that’s what it used to be called, but I digress), but know that it’s a writing device and is not accidental and since I know the rules I can break them so there.

I like the idea of a leisurely morning on my balcony with coffee and three trees’ worth of birds twittering and flitting. I like listening to little kids walking to the park across the street and watching dogs with their zingy little bodies flinging themselves around with sheer delight at being outside because they can. This is not time wasted. This is time spent rooted in the essence of respect and awe, and wouldn’t that be a lovely thing to do?

We can actually construct a life that has built into it more time for joy and awe and respect and wonder and zingy-body flinging, so long as we are willing to shuffle off the mortal coil of Stuff and Striving. I suppose it’s a bit of striving to make this happen, too, but in the very best way – the shedding part of striving, where you shed the illusion that you have to Do and Be and Go in order to be considered Successful.

(and true and weird thing that just happened: as my brain wanted to type “Successful,” my fingers typed “Suzannah.” STRANGE.)

The best parts of this will come together with less effort than one might think necessary. Just like this ice cream. Khristian and I are cooking our way through Madhur Jaffrey’s Vegetarian India, and as we finished up one meal and began to plan the other, these flavors came to me. Sweet. Sour. Spicy. Salty. The balance of flavor was not instantaneous, but that’s just the way things go, mostly, in ice cream as in life.

Take a detour with me here, and then tell me the best detour you ever took in the comments.

New feature here, for your edification, this was on the blog two years ago today: Galentine’s Day: Coffeecake and Connection

Vanilla Ice Cream With Tamarind Caramel And Spicy Peanut Crumble

Ingredients

Ice Cream

4 cups of dairy (see Recipe Notes)

1 vanilla bean, scraped (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

1/2 cup sugar

4 egg yolks

pinch salt

Tamarind Caramel

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 or 3 teaspoons of tamarind concentrate (see Recipe Notes)

Peanut Crumble (from Madhur Jaffrey’s Vegetarian Indian)

1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts

1/3 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Method

Make the ice cream: Place dairy and vanilla bean (or extract) in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and heat until small bubbles appear around the sides (do not boil).

While the dairy is heating, place egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

When dairy is ready, remove from heat and begin to slowly add to eggs, whisking constantly. I cannot emphasize enough the words “slowly add” and “whisking constantly.” If you add quickly and don’t whisk, you will make sweetened scrambled eggs. Pour a few drops of dairy at a time to begin, gradually working your way to a thin, constant stream of dairy, whisked into the eggs.

Once combined, place the saucepan back on the stove with a fine-mesh strainer on top of it. Strain the milk and egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, for about ten minutes (or until the mixture begins to thicken). Eventually, the mixture will thinly coat the back of a spoon, and you will know it’s done.

Place the fine-mesh strainer over another bowl, and strain dairy mixture into the bowl. Place plastic wrap on the surface of the dairy mixture and place in ‘fridge to cool completely. This can be done a couple of days ahead of time if you prefer.

Make the caramel: While the dairy is chillin’, make your caramel. Caramel is not hard but requires patience and a tiny bit of finesse. Combine sugar and water in a high-sided heavy saucepan over medium heat and swirl gently to mix (don’t use a spoon; pick up the saucepan and swirl it around).

You can leave the sugar/water mix briefly to combine the heavy cream and tamarind extract in a separate bowl. The tamarind extract immediately makes the cream thicken. This is totally fine. Do not panic. Set aside.

Take a look at your sugar/water mixture. You are looking to see if the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is bubbling. The bubbling will cause sugar deposits to climb up the side of the pan; use a pastry brush dipped in water to encourage those crystals to rejoin the liquid, but do not stir in.

Once your sugar mixture turns a light golden yellow, remove from heat and whisk in the cream and tamarind concentrate mixture. The sugar will bubble up (hence the high sides of the saucepan), so work quickly to incorporate the cream mixture. Stir and cook over medium-low heat until the mixture begins to thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon. Place in a jar or other container and let cool to at least room temperature. Set aside.

Make the crumble: Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until you have medium-fine crumbs. Set aside.

Put it all together: You will process the ice cream according to your manufacturer’s instructions. I pour my custard in and process for about 15 minutes, then add the peanut crumble for five minutes (until totally incorporated) and then the completely cool tamarind caramel. I like there to be chewy streaks of caramel throughout, a little tartness to cut the sweet.

Recipe Notes

  • A word on dairy: I generally use 50% heavy cream and 50% whole milk in my ice creams, but you can use whatever is on hand. The more cream, the creamier (which makes sense). You can also be vegan AF if you like, but I have not tested this with plant milks (the ice cream or the caramel). Both might be very delicious with coconut milk.
  • I ordered my tamarind concentrate from the interwebs; it’s also referred to as tamarind paste, and I used the brand Madhur Jaffrey recommended.

 

 

The Antidote: Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake

(no caption needed, is there?)
(no caption needed, is there?)

You deserve to treat yourself to something sweet.

#TreatYoSelf

Maybe it’s a Wednesday and things are a little crappy. Like maybe your teenager is having a meltdown and so are you because she is leaving for France for a year and hormones.

Or maybe it’s about to be 114 degrees and this might be the last time the oven gets used for the next week. #GlobalWarmingYall

Or maybe the circus that is the Republican National Convention makes you feel like grabbing a little sugar high. Or Rocky Mountain High because, seriously, #WhatTheFuck?

Whatever your issue. Whatever is happening.

Make THIS.

This surely is not legal in some states. There is a pound of butter in the frosting, and more sugar than you probably have in your kitchen right now in the whole cake. It takes a couple hours to make, what with the three layers (which I had to make in two pans and then one because I only have two pans, but that’s what being flexible is all about) and the filling and crumb coat  (which I will always do from now on) and the cooling and then the final frosting.

In the words of my very lucky neighbor: “This is legit.”

#YoureWelcome

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake

Note: Mad love to Baker By Nature from whom this recipe was adapted. I made changes to the flours, the levening agents, and added some coffee, but other than that, it’s genius all on its own. 

Ingredients

Cake:

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2  3/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1  1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs + 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1  1/2 cups full-fat sour cream
1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups hot, strong brewed coffee (essential for deep chocolate flavor)

Salted caramel chocolate frosting:
2 cups unsalted butter (4 sticks, 16 ounces), completely soft
4 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk, half-n-half, or heavy cream (it seriously does not matter which)
2 tablespoons salted caramel sauce (I bought a jar of Smucker’s salted caramel sauce, but you could DIY)
Assembly:
1 and 1/4 cups salted caramel sauce (please see post for more on this)
Flaky sea salt

Method

Preheat oven to 350°(F).

Grease three 9-inch cakepans (or spray with cooking spray) and line bottom with rounds of parchment paper. Grease the rounds and set pans aside. As noted above, I had to bake two layers then bake the third due to lack of a third cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (I used the whisk attachment), or in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer, combine both sugars, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt; mix on low until dry ingredients are thoroughly combined (or just whisk well to combine, breaking up large clumps).

In a separate bowl combine the eggs, egg yolks, sour cream, milk, oil, and vanilla extract; mix until completely combined.

Pour wet mixture into the dry ingredients and beat on low until just incorporated. Pour in hot coffee and continue mixing until completely combined (about one minute).

Divide batter evenly among prepared pans.

Baking times:

  • 30 minutes for regular oven
  • 25 for convection (I used convection; more even heat for baking)

Test with a wooden toothpick. Insert toothpick into the center of the cake. It should come out clean or with just a few crumbs attached.

Cool cakes for 10 minutes in the pan before removing from pans and transferring to a cooling rack. Cool cakes completely before frosting.

For the chocolate frosting:
In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or again using a hand mixer), cream the softened butter until completely smooth.

Turn the mixer off and sift the powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Use a spatula to gently stir in the chocolate/sugar mixture before turning the mixer back on or you will have a fine layer of chocolate/sugar dust coating all of the surfaces of your kitchen. #LearnFromExperience

Turn the mixer on the lowest speed and mix until the chocolate/sugar has been absorbed by the butter.

Increase mixer speed to medium; add in vanilla extract, salt, whatever dairy you are using, and salted caramel. Beat for three minutes. If your frosting appears a little too thin, add a little more confectioners’ sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinner, add more dairy, one tablespoon at a time.

Assembly:
If your cake does not have a lovely flat surface, you can use a serrated knife to trim whatever is sticking up, OR you can make the top the bottom. Place one layer on a large plate or cake stand. Spread a thin layer of frosting on top, then add a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of caramel and spread over the layer. Top with another cake layer, and thinly spread it with a layer of frosting, then adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of caramel. Place final cake layer on top.

At this point, if your cake is listing due to the slippery nature of caramel, inserting dowels into the cake can help.

If you are using a crumb coat, do that now.

Chill cake in the ‘fridge for one hour, then remove to finish the frosting. Sprinkle with best-quality sea salt.

Keeps in the ‘fridge for five days. It won’t last that long, but that’s the theory anyway.

 

 

Halloween Treats With A Trick: Caramel Apple Jello Shots

And a little something for the adults.
     I have never used a melon baller in my life.
     Shocking but true.
     So it seems fitting that the first time I do use a melon baller is to make these boozy Halloween treats with a wee trick in the form of butterscotch booze (previously purchased, also for the first time, for my caramel apple martini binge, a trend that continues in my house and will until the apple cider runs out and it gets too cold to think of drinking sweet, cold cocktails).
     This year’s Halloween entry is late, and it sort of typifies the way Halloween has worked this year in general. The Teenager is going to a non-costume Halloween party at a friend’s (which seems really strange to me. No costumes at a party on Halloween? Even costume-optional? But I digress.), which turns out to be fine because she couldn’t get her act together enough to figure out what she wanted to be.
     Usually I am a witch because it just fits, and I happen to own tons of black which means that costume shopping for me entails finding/borrowing a witch’s hat.
     But this year I wasn’t feeling it. And The Teenager wasn’t either, which is sort of sad because I told her this is the last year I was footing the Halloween costume bill. This morning (actual Halloween but actually afternoon because she is a teenager and we did spend several hours playing with the dogs and eating doughnuts in her bed this morning), The Teenager is in the shower, getting herself together for the party tonight, and as I melon-balled my way to these delicious treats with a wee trick I started to get a little nostalgic, as I am prone to do when I cook and listen to Hozier.
     She was a pumpkin for her first year, and a bumblebee after that. Then a fairy. Then a couple years get fuzzy (but included her making a costume as a shadow, which was pretty epic), right up until the string of years when I made her various states of dead as a zombie.
 
My sweet little bee, many years ago. 
 
      As The Teenager got older, I started feeling a little weird about being so gleeful about making her look as undead as possible. She pushed it one more year as a dead bride, the best, most disgusting year of her zombie-ness, until she started to branch off into different costumes.
     This year, she is nothing but herself, heading to a party while I stay home in our new house, doling out literally 20 pounds of candy and non-candy treats for allergic children, wearing my Halloween costume alone on the stoop with the dogs barking like crazy people as little trick-or-treaters flood the neighborhood.
     It’s hard not to tie the passing months to The Teenager’s impending departure. Every year she leaves behind a little more of the child she was and begins to step towards her own life. It is inevitable, joyous, and a little sad.  I am going to need these treats with a wee little trick, and I suspect some of the parental chaperones will, as well.

 

     Happy Halloween!