Monday, May 21, 2007

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

A friend of mine (we'll call her the Enabler) recently asked whether I'd be making ice cream for Shavuot — maybe cheesecake ice cream? I answered that I'd thought about it, but I couldn't very well make ice cream to serve with cheesecake, let alone cheesecake ice cream.

But apparently I could.

Let me explain. The cheesecake recipe we're using this year (a no-bake version, since our oven is broken) calls for 12 ounces of cream cheese. Cream cheese comes in eight-ounce packages, so we bought two and had four ounces extra — exactly the amount called for in this recipe. And strawberries are at the height of their season, so we had two pounds in the fridge. Tell me that isn't a sign from God. (Actually, don't. I prefer the illusion.)

In any case, I'm very pleased with the result. The ice cream has a mild cheesecake flavor without being overwhelmingly rich, and the fresh strawberries really hit the spot. Here's the recipe:

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream
Adapted from Joy of Baking

4 oz cream cheese
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (divided)
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used extract)
1 pound (about 2 dry pints) strawberries

  1. In the inner container of a double boiler (or any medium stainless steel bowl), blend the cream cheese, egg yolks, and 2/3 cup sugar with a whisk or, preferably, an electric hand mixer until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). (At this point, you may wish to begin heating the water for step 4.)

  2. In a small saucepan, heat the half-and-half to the scalding point along with the vanilla bean, if using. (If using extract, do not add it at this point.) Stir frequently to prevent a skin from forming. When the cream reaches the scalding point, the milk will begin to foam up rapidly. Immediately remove from heat. Take out the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out with the back of a knife, then mix the seeds back into the half-and-half.

  3. Slowly pour the scalding half-and-half into the cream cheese mixture while whisking the mixture to prevent the eggs from cooking. (If any lumps do form, force the mixture through a strainer.)

  4. Fill the outer container of the double boiler (or a saucepan) with water and bring to a boil. Place the bowl or container of custard over the simmering water and heat, stirring constantly, until the custard reaches 170 degrees F or coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and continue to stir for a few minutes. Set aside.

  5. Cut up half the strawberries and puree them in a food processor or blender. Stir the remaining two tablespoons of sugar into the puree, then stir the puree into the custard along with the vanilla extract, if using. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate several hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

  6. Freeze the chilled mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Chop the remaining strawberries. Remove the ice cream from the machine and stir in the strawberries. Transfer to freezer to harden.

Cross-posted to the Kosher Blog.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Standardizing Orthodoxy

Rabbi Josh Yuter has a good post on the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America's recent agreement with the Israeli Rabbinate on the standardization of the conversion process. The backstory is that the Israeli Rabbinate has been refusing to recognize conversions performed by North American Orthodox rabbis with whom they are unfamiliar. As a result, converts who believed their credentials to be impeccable have been unable to marry in Israel or to move to Israel under the Law of Return.

As Yuter notes, easing these tensions with the Israeli rabbinate has the potential to make the lives of many converts a great deal less onerous. Standardization may have its own benefits as well. Judaism is known for discouraging potential converts in order to make sure that those who do convert are genuinely comitted. This policy has some merit, but all too often it becomes an excuse for what can only be described as hazing, as religious courts attempt to prove their rigor by making the lives of conversion candidates as difficult as possible. People I know who have persued Orthodox conversions have been dragged through a lengthy procedure during which they had little sense of the court's requirements or how much progress they were making toward fulfilling them. This is a particular hardship for young singles, since potential converts are not allowed to date or have romantic relationships. Standardization of the conversion procedure could eliminate some of the ambiguities that make the process so difficult for converts as well as alleviating regional courts' perceived need to compete with each other over the rigor of their conversions.

On the other hand, standardization in the Orthodox world usually means capitulation to the right. Those who call themselves Orthodox Jews — and Orthodox rabbis — espouse a wide range of beliefs and practices. The RCA, however, is now claiming the right not only to determine the criteria for conversion but to decide which rabbis are worthy performing conversions. In addition, children who convert are required to attend an Orthodox day school through 12th grade, and the RCA reserves the right to decide which day schools are "serious" enough to qualify. Yuter observes, "as the religious and political dynamics of the RCA/BDA [Bet Din of America] changes, the regional Batei Din [religious courts] will be forced to adapt or lose their authorization." More distressingly, so will the converts.

All in all, I'm troubled. But of course, I have no say in this matter. We'll see what happens.

Monday, May 07, 2007

New Look

When I started this blog, the Blogger template options were all pretty hideous. That has changed, however, and now Blogger has some new (or not so new) features that come with the new (or not so new) templates. So I have finally decided to switch. I may play around with the colors a bit more, but I think I've settled on the basic look. I'm already much happier.

I should have done this a long time ago.

Berry Sorbet

Read the recipe on the Kosher Blog.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

New Recipe Book

Ever since I read Meredith's comment on this post, I've been thinking about Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book. (Well, not continuously, but almost.) At a recent Shabbat meal, I asked a friend whether she thought I should buy it. She said, "It sounds great to me, but I know about your problem."* Several weeks later, what should show up in the mail but that very book, sent by that very friend. If you ask me, this is the perfect way to solve a cookbook-buying addiction: Get other people to buy the books for you!

It's a really fun looking book, with whimsical drawings and lots of little tips and anecdotes. My favorite pointer so far is one that accompanies the recipe for Egg Nog Ice Cream:
Because the recipe calls for eight egg yolks, we've always wondered what to do with the extra egg whites. I put them in a covered bowl and store them in the refrigerator. After a month, I throw them out.

I expect that you'll be reading more about this book in the future.

*Yeah, there was a link in her answer. Really.