And so I learnt the difference between the four kinds of ice that could be made: cordiale or liquors, into which crushed snow was stirred to chill them; granite, shavings of frozen water over which were poured syrups made from rosewater or oranges; sorbetti, more complex water ices, in which it was the syrups themselves that were frozen, the mixture paddled as it hardened so that the fragments lay in the pot like a glittering mound of sapphires; and finally sherbets, the most difficult of all, made with milk that had been infused with mastic or cardamom, so that they resembled snow that had refrozen overnight. I learned how to construct chilled obelisks of jelly; how to use silversmiths’ moulds to cast fantastic frozen plates and bowls, and how to carve the ice into extravagant table decorations. I mastered the spectacular entertainments of the great engineer Buontalenti, who had constructed fountains, tables, and even whole grottos of ice. ~ The Empress of Ice Cream (pages 9 – 10)
I’m still on an ice cream-making high after reading The Empress of Ice Cream by Anthony Capella (see here and here). It’s a story about a young Italian ice cream maker who falls in love with a beautiful, French woman, sent to become the mistress of Charles II, King of England.
Like the character in the book, I’m learning how to make different types of ices. Slowly. First I made a chocolate sauce to go over ice cream; then I made an orange ice (granite). Over the weekend, I made a mango sorbet from a recipe I found on Kalyn’s Kitchen. I was doubly excited about the recipe for two reasons. 1 – I love mangoes and 2- I didn’t need the aid of an ice cream-making machine (I don’t own one).
I was very satisfied with the way my Mango Sorbet came out. It tasted sweet, cool, and fresh. I liked it a lot. Apparently, others at home liked it a lot, too. The next morning I found the empty sorbet container in the kitchen sink. I guess I’ll have to make some more.
The best thing about preparing my own food (or in this case, my own sorbet) is that I know what is in the food. I know that there are no artificial ingredients. Best of all, the food (ice cream) tastes great! Nothing beats homemade.
With a couple of weeks left in the summer season, I plan on making more ices and ice cream to help cool down.
By the way, I’m still looking for my own personal ice cream maker (and I’m not talking about a machine). You can find my ad here.
Low Sugar Mango Sorbet (without an ice cream freezer)
(Makes 4 small servings, adapted from Mango Sorbet at AllRecipes.)
from Kalyn’s Kitchen
2 large very ripe mangoes
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup Granulated Stevia In The Raw, Splenda, or sugar
1 1/2 T fresh lime juice
In a small pan combine the water and sweetener and bring to a boil. Turn off and let the mixture cool while you peel and cut up the mangoes.
To peel the mangoes, slice along each side of the flat seed, guiding your knife to come as close as you can to the mango seed. Then slice away any other mango flesh that still clings to the seed. Peel away the skin and chop the flesh.
Put the chopped mango and lime juice in a food processor and process for about 45 seconds, until the mixture is quite pureed. Add the cooled simple sugar mixture and process about 45 second more, until there are no lumps.
Put the mixture into a plastic bowl with a tight fitting lid and put it in the freezer. Ever 30 minutes, remove bowl from the freezer, scrape away the frozen part around the edges and whisk it into the mixture. Total freezing time is 3-4 hours, depending on how cold your freezer is. For my freezer, I would freeze it 4 hours next time for a slightly firmer sorbet.
Divide into individual bowls and serve. This recipe could easily be doubled and made in an ice cream freezer.
I recently finished reading The Empress of Ice Cream by Anthony Capella, a historical fiction about Carlo Demirco, a handsome Italian ice maker who falls in love with Louise de Keroualle, a beautiful but poor lady-in-waiting. The King of France, Louis XIV, sends the two as a gift to the King of England, Charles II. Carlo is to serve as the personal ice cream maker to King Charles. This is a time when ice cream was first introduced in England. It is a treat, only for the wealthy and privileged. Louise, is to serve as mistress to King Charles and help influence his political decisions between England and France. An intriguing story unfolds, told from the point of view of Louise and Carlo. It is fascinating to see how Louise and Carlo handle their situation and how ice cream plays a big part in their story.
Here’s a description of the first time Carlo, as a young child, has the opportunity to taste one of the ices that he helps to make:
I had been working for the Persian almost two years before I dared to ask what the ices we made tasted like.
‘Taste? What does the taste matter to you, child?’ Ahmad said scornfully.
I knew that I had to be careful how I answered if I was to avoid yet another beating. ‘Sir, I have seen how the cooks try their dishes as they make them. I think I will understand better how to make these ices if I know how they are meant to taste.’
We were making an ice flavoured with a syrup of the small sweet oranges that some call china oranges, and some mandarins. The syrup was thickened further with orange pulp, and scented with the aromatic oils extracted from the rind, before being poured over a pile of grated ice. ‘Very well,’ Ahmad said, gesturing at the pot with a shrug. ‘Try some, if that is what you wish.’ Before he could change his mind I took a spoon, scooped out a little of the confection, and put it to my lips.
Ice crystals cracked and crunched against my teeth. I felt them dissolving on my tongue – a cold, sparkling sensation as they shriveled away to nothing – then the syrup ran down my throat, cold and thick and sugary. The taste swelled in my mouth like the sudden ripening of the orange fruit itself. I gasped with pleasure: then, a moment later, a terrible pain shot up inside my head as the cold gripped my throat, choking me, and I spluttered.”
Ahmad’s lip curled with amusement. ‘Now, perhaps, you understand that it is not a dish for children. Or for the general populace, there being no nourishment in it. We are here to entertain, boy, not to feed. We are like singers, or actors, or painters, makers of fine meaningless baubles for the wealthy and the great: that is to say, kings, courtiers, cardinals and their courtesans. No one but them will ever be able to waste so much expense on something that melts to nothing on their lips even faster than a song melts on the evening air.’
But, once I had got over the initial strangeness, I found that the taste was one I could not forget. It had not simply been that extraordinary flavor of sweet, concentrated oranges; it was the ice itself, it’s cold frozen grittiness, calling to me. From then on, without Ahmad knowing, I made sure I tasted every confection we made. And I never again spluttered when I felt the coldness grip my throat. (page 6-7)
Carlo makes a lot of different ice creams, always striving to make the perfect ice for the King and the woman with whom he’s fallen in love. The descriptions and process are fascinating to read and by the end of the book, I found myself wanting to make some ice cream. By the way, I am actually looking for my own personal ice cream maker. No, not an ice cream-making machine but an ice cream MAKER – as in one of the human kind, just like Carlo (see here).
In the meantime, I decided to start with a simple ice recipe, an Orange Ice (Granita). The recipe is based on a recipe from Once Upon a Plate, who made her granita using Clementine oranges (hence the title below, Clementine Ice). The oranges I bought from the supermarket had no special brand (They weren’t selling Clementines). They were ordinary oranges on sale – two for one dollar! Now, THAT’S my kind of orange since they normally cost more than that.
With my two-for-a-dollar oranges, I set out to make my very first granita. The process was very easy and the ingredients – mainly oranges and lemon, very simple. When my ice was ready and I tasted it, I was pleasantly surprised. I loved the refreshing, cold, sweet, orange taste on my tongue. It tasted heavenly, perfect for a hot summer day. Perfect for anyone who’d care to have a taste.
Clementine Ice (Granita)
from Once Upon a Plate
Makes about 3 cups
With a micro-plane grater remove the zest (colored part only) from one medium size Clementine. Place the zest in a small pan with 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup sugar (or scant 1/2 cup Agave syrup). Or sweetener of your choice, adjusting amount according to how sweet you prefer.
Heat mixture until hot but not boiling, stirring once or twice. Remove from heat and allow to cool. When cool stir in 1 and 1/2 cups Clementine juice, plus 1 to 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Pour mixture into a flat, shallow container, cover with cling film and place in freezer. Allow to freeze until mixture begins to freeze around the edges. With tines of a fork scrape and mix, bringing the frozen parts to the center of the container. Return to the freezer and repeat this process a couple of times after mixture begins to freeze again.
When the juice has frozen throughout it may be served immediately, or scraped the fork once more, covered tightly and served within a day or two for best flavor and quality.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself, but after reading The Empress of Ice Cream by Anthony Capella, you’ll be screaming for ice cream, too. Actually, I’m screaming for ice cream AND my own personal ice cream maker.
The Empress of Ice Cream is a historical fiction about ice cream and two people caught up in the political climate between France and England in the 1600s and the wills of the two kings. Carlo Demirco is a handsome, Italian ice cream maker at a time when the knowledge to make ice cream is rare and only the privileged are able to taste it. Louise de Keroualle, is a beautiful but poor, French lady-in-waiting. As a gift, French King Louis XIV sends talented Carlo to become the personal ice cream maker to Charles II, King of England. He also sends the striking Louise to become Charles’s mistress. The gesture is actually part of a bribe to form alliances between the two kings.
Who knew that the subject of ice cream combined with 17th century French/English politics would be so fascinating? Louise de Keroualle is a real-life historical figure. Carlo is fictional but his presence occurs at the time when ice cream was first introduced in England.
Told from two perspectives, Carlo and Louise’s, The Empress of Ice Cream is a captivating story with a gratifying ending. The characters are all very interesting. Louise is shrewd and a survivor. Carlo is ambitious, always striving to make the best ice cream. I loved the vivid book descriptions, not only of the time period and the activity in the courts, but especially of the ice creams that Carlo makes and the people’s reactions after tasting them, especially for the first time. Here are two of Carlo’s accounts:
"Soon, to the king’s great satisfaction, I was producing ices of a kind that had never been made before — chilled cordials flavoured with orgeat, or milk ices sandwiched between layers of meringue that looked like macaroons, or sorbetti that could be held in the hand within a little lattice goblet made of spun sugar, so that they did not drip on your fine court court clothes as they melted." — page 26
"On another occasion I made him a bowl of cherries which, when examined closely, turned out to be twenty individual cherry cream ices which I had frozen one by one in a mould; while my mandarin sorbets — each one served inside the skin of a recently picked mandarin, the peel apparently unbroken, like a toy ship inside a bottle — were a wonder that the court discussed for days." — page 29
By now, I’m sure you’ve guessed that this is my entry for Novel Food, the culinary/literary blogging event. Today, it’s hosted by Simona of Briciole. I didn’t have time to make ice cream but was able to make something that goes well with ice cream – chocolate sauce. Imagine this warm chocolaty sauce with or without banana and walnuts over your ice cream. Delicious! I think I could have been an apprentice for Carlos and the King would have enjoyed this chocolate sauce. Heck! You’d all enjoy this chocolate sauce.
I will end here with the passage in the book when Carlos first tasted chocolate:
One night I found the whole kitchen smelling dark and pungent, as if livers were being cooked in a sauce of fortified wine; but this smell had a richness to it that was like no offal I had ever known. It was coming from a small saucepan on the range, where something thick and brown spat like hot lava as the cook stirred it with a wooden spoon. ‘Xocalatl,’ the cook said, as he poured the contents of the pan into a small cup for the Grand Duke’s nightcap: then, seeing my incomprehension, he offered me the end of the spoon to taste.
That is another memory I have never forgotten, one of a different kind; a heat that filled my mouth and coated my palate, leaving it full of the same rich taste for hours afterwards; bitter and thick, yet strangely warming, like the very opposite of ice. – page 7
My own personal Ice Cream Maker.
Must be able to make ice cream at my beck and call.
Being good-looking and Italian (like Carlo) won’t hurt.
Accepting applications here and now.
Chocolate sauce to be poured over ice cream
Chocolate sauce with bananas and walnuts
Lee Lee’s Famous Chocolate Sauce for Ice Cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2-2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup water (more or less, as needed to make a stirable consistency)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine sugar, cocoa, and salt in small saucepan.
Add the water.
Add butter to cocoa mixture.
Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly.
Allow to boil for 1 minute, stirring.
Remove from heat.
Serve warm over ice cream.
Add sliced bananas and chopped walnuts if you really want a treat!
For Novel Food guidelines, click on the banner above. Check out Bricole, for a lineup of other Novel Food entries. You’ll find a wonderful list of books and meals inspired by the stories.
Every time I visit Cynthia’s food blog at Tastes Like Home: My Caribbean Cookbook, I become hungry. I’m tempted to reach through the screen to grab some of that delicious Caribbean-inspired food she prepares. One of the foods I immediately hungered for, at first sight, was her salt fish dish call Buljol. In the month of January, I made Cynthia’s Buljol dish a lot – practically every other day (and will continue to do it). I love how the flavor of this salty cod fish (also known as Bacalhau), is balanced out by the way it’s cooked and then simply mixed with ingredients like tomatoes and sweet peppers.
Cynthia has a cookbook available on Amazon.com. The name of the book is the same as her food blog – Tastes Like Home: My Caribbean Cookbook (by Cynthia Nelson). It’s a wonderful book filled with recipes that she personally put together and beautifully photographed. You can find the recipe for Buljol and other tasty Caribbean foods in her cookbook, which does not disappoint.
Buljol — Salt Cod Fish
Buljol served with rice