Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Neapolitan ice cream cake, and unexpected snow

I am a heavy user of the local weather app. Out of sheer necessity. In January and February in these parts, you never know if it will be 40F or 70F on any given day, and you need some predictive guidance on what to wear.

Last weekend, though, I wasn't paying attention to the weather app on a lazy Saturday morning and something magical happened. We looked out of the window and saw fat snowflakes drifting down. Oh, we have ice storms every now and then, but the last time I remember actual white fluffy snow falling in our town was over 6 years ago. The kids whooped with delight. Our toddler was seeing snow for the first time and could not believe his eyes. The magical winter wonderland lasted for a few hours, then the snow melted as rapidly as it fell.

* * *
Ice cream might be more of a summer treat than something one craves in winter, but we were celebrating at work in January and my coworkers dropped not-too-subtle hints for ice cream cake. I was only too happy to oblige because with ice cream cake, you can produce crowd-pleasing results with the very minimum of work and sit back and accept compliments. It can be assembled ahead of time, which helps for mid-week things.

I made a simple Neapolitan ice cream cake for the work lunch with three flavors of ice cream and some crushed cookies in between the layers for added crunch and texture.

  1. Buy 3 pints of ice cream- I chose the three classic flavors of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, but any compatible flavors will do. Non-dairy frozen desserts will work just as well as conventional dairy ice cream.
  2. Set out the ice cream on the counter to soften.
  3. Crush a few oreo cookies in a bowl. I used gluten-free chocolate sandwich cookies (one of my coworkers is gluten-intolerant) and the advantage of using gluten-free cookies is they are very crumbly. Bad for eating out of hand but good for crushing into crumbs with your bare hands. 
  4. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap. Let it overhang.
  5. As the vanilla ice cream softens, tip it into a bowl, mash it into a soft serve and layer in the pan. Top with a layer of cookie crumbs. Set in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Repeat the ice cream and cookie crumb layering with the other two flavors. 
  7. Freeze until needed, then turn out into a platter and slice. 
  8. Serves 10 or so.
Another favorite ice cream cake recipe is here, Indian cassata ice cream.

* * * 

My bundt pan, purchased straight from the Nordicware factory in Minneapolis, is one of my prized kitchen possessions but I rarely need cakes that serve 16 people so it isn't often pressed into use.

Our daughter's school hosted an art show- every student chose one piece of work to display. Desserts were passed around at the show. I took the opportunity to use the pan and contributed a lemon bliss bundt cake. The recipe from King Arthur flour is a keeper and one I've made many times before. It yielded a beautiful big cake that my daughter lovingly glazed with lemon-sugar. Because of the sturdy and tight crumb, I was able to cut about 26 neat and skinny slices from this chonker of a cake.

* * *

One rainy evening, some of our son's friends and their parents came over for an impromptu play date. We picked up some pies from our favorite pizzeria to feed the crowd. There was lots of pizza left over and that is how I discovered so late in life that store-bought pizza freezes beautifully. The following week, I was able to thaw it out and reheat it in the oven to crispy perfection, and then eat it in a favorite way, as pizza croutons in a big arugula salad.

* * *

In early January our Duncan got post-surgery X-rays and got the all-clear from his surgeon to break free from his living room confinement and resume some of his old life again, going on walks and such. The mad running in the dog park is still contraindicated and he'll likely never get to do that kind of thing again, sadly. He has clear signs of arthritis and we are managing it with medications and TLC.

These pictures were taken on an unusually warm and sunny day when he flopped down in the front yard after a walk and just wanted to sit there amid a big pillow of fallen leaves and soak up the sun rays.

Tell me how February is turning out for you!