Tomorrow is the day! To all those celebrating their birthdays today: Happy birthday and thank you for letting me use your day to announce mine!
I suppose I should go into what I’ve learnt so far in this life but all that comes to mind is that it’s good to still be here. Time is this incredibly fragile thing that we are twirling in the middle of, trying to get by as slow as possible. It’s impossible to control so we watch it and say every chance we get that “it goes by so fast”. I can’t even believe I’ve spent five of my birthdays here in succession. It’s been good. I try to make it that way at least so it’s something I remember.
My first birthday in the US was celebrated with ice-cream cake. It was from Cold Stone Creamery and it was also my first time eating an ice-cream cake. I was so surprised. First of all, I never knew of such a thing being a….thing. I’d eaten ice-cream over cake as two separate entities but never as one united religious experience. With a barely-there sweet tooth, I could not eat more than a couple of slices but Matt had no such issues. I still have a barely-there sweet tooth but it’s something I can ignore on days where I turn 29 and a few more after that. At least until this cake is all gone.
This year, we got excellent plans and I’m so excited! I’ll share it all with you really soon.
Thank you for humoring my silly I mean AMAZING birthday week celebrations. This blog – rather creating for this blog – has gotten me through some shitty times. It has totally changed my goals too and I hope to get a chance to work on things I love more often than just a hobby. I know this much: I don’t want to go back to being depressed for moving countries again and as long as I’m here doing this thing, I know I’ll be okay.
Happy 29th birthday to me! It’s my birthday in India so I get to say that!
I’ve been wanting to make fennel ice-cream since I don’t know how long. Fennel is always served along with your bill in tiny trays after meals at restaurants in India. It works as a digestive and a breath-freshener. Sometimes it’s sugar coated and if it’s put in front of you, you have to eat it. It is one of those things. I’m not going to get into the myths about dipping into this community fennel because that takes all the joy out of life. Eat at your own risk, I guess. The good part of this story is that this is my personal fennel stock. No pee hands have touched them. I said it.
This ice-cream is just as delicious as you can imagine fennel ice-cream to be. This subtle, vibrant, fresh taste comes out so well. If you love fennel as much as we do in India, you will LOVE this ice-cream.
- Please use the freshest fennel you can find. Spices have a shelf-life so if you happen to find a handful of fennel sitting in your spice box for the past year, throw it away and buy more. If you don’t use it as often, buy just a little bit from the bulk section of your grocery store.
- The ice-cream could get drippy (as it should) while it’s being layered on the cake. Put it back in the fridge and let it harden if you notice this happening. It’s better to wait than to have sloppy cake.
- If making ice-cream is not your jam, use store-bought, please! A pint should be enough for this recipe..
- The same goes for chocolate cake: Use store-bought or a boxed mix to simplify.
For the fennel ice-cream
Adapted from Gourmet magazine
- 1 2/3 cups heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup sugar, divided
- Pinch of salt
- 4 large egg yolks
Place a small saucepan with the cream and fennel seeds on medium heat. Bring the ingredients to a simmer, making sure it doesn’t boil. Once it simmer, take it off the heat, cover it and let it steep for 30 minutes.
In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the milk, sugar and a pinch of salt to a simmer and stir constantly to help the sugar dissolve. Don’t let the milk boil over.
Make an ice bath by filling a sink or a large container with ice and cold water. Place a large metal or glass bowl into the ice bath put a fine-mesh sieve over the bowl.
Whisk the yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl and add milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking very rapidly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook, stirring with a spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon and registers 175°F on an instant-read thermometer. Do not let it boil. If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, a good way to tell the custard is done is by swiping the back of a spoon with your finger. The mixture should be thick enough and form a clean line.
Immediately strain the custard through the fine-mesh sieve into the metal or glass bowl in the ice bath. Stir the custard occasionally until cool for about 15 minutes.
Strain the fennel cream through the same fine-mesh sieve into custard, pressing on solids. Chill the custard in the fridge overnight or for 8 hours. Freeze in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.
The ice-cream can be made a day ahead.
- 85 gms/3 oz dark chocolate chips (62% cacao)
- 185 gms/1 ⅓ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 89 gms/¾ cup Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 gms/ ½ tsp baking powder
- 2 gms/¼ tsp baking soda
- 113 gms/½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 200 gms/1 cup granulated sugar
- 100 gms/½ cup dark brown sugar
- 4 gms/½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 120 ml/½ cup sour cream
- 120 ml/½ cup whole milk
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 X 1.5 in cake pan and line with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper in the pan.
Melt the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave. If melting over the stove, stir until the chocolate turns smooth. If melting in the microwave, place the chocolate chips in a glass bowl and let it go round for 30 seconds. Remove and stir and put it back in for 10 seconds. Repeat this until the chocolate is smooth.
In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: Flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the melted butter, sugars and salt until combined. Beat in egg, vanilla extract, sour cream, milk and melted chocolate. Fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Over-mixing could lead to a denser cake.
Scrape batter into prepared cake pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of cake emerges clean, about 50 minutes to an hour. Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool completely.
To assemble ice-cream cake
- Candied fennel, to sprinkle on top
Unmold the cooled cake and smooth out the edges and the top with a large serrated knife. Carefully cut the cake in half horizontally and right through the middle. Skip this step if you want to just set and freeze the ice-cream on top of the cake.
Take the ice-cream out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes to allow it to turn more spreadable. Spread a 1/4 inch thick even layer of ice-cream on top of the chocolate cake. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it set in the fridge until hard (about an hour). Put the container with ice-cream back in the fridge until this time too.
Repeat the above step with the next layer of cake and ice-cream. Coat the sides of the cake with a thin layer of ice-cream. Sprinkle the top with candied fennel and chill until hard.