Sometimes I wonder whether it's an advantage or a disadvantage for a child to have a therapist as a parent. (For my son, that would be a former therapist.)
Is there incessant analyzing of the child's every word and action?
Or, maybe too much explaining about feeling states? Repeated empathizing comments about how it's okay to feel how you feel but not to act upon it?
Am I screwing him up for life?
I sure hope not.
Being a little neurotic ("healthy neurotic," as mental health researchers call it), I am prone to such questions making sudden appearances, traveling from the hinterlands of my mind right to the fore. The healthy part though, is that I am able to step back and see the entire picture, including what's positive.
So, I do appreciate those moments where something occurs to reassure me that everything will work out fine. We had one such moment the other day at the park when I was squatting under the playground apparatus trying to hide from the burning hot Western Washington sun like some kind of vampire. Too hot! Too bright!
I happened to be sitting beside one of those fake windows built for imaginative play. Kingston walked up to the opposite side of the window. I glanced up at him and found myself asking, "Would you like some ice cream? My store has lots of flavors."
"What kind?" He said, not missing a beat.
"Um. Let's see. I have vanilla..."
His eyes widened.
"And I have chocolate. Strawberry...Or maybe you'd like some chocolate swirl?"
His serious but wide-eyed expression transformed into a huge smile.
For a moment, I tried not to laugh, but my heart was filled with light -- with delight, really. Then, from thin air, I scooped great mounds of "chocolate squirrel" onto a cone and handed it to him. He took it carefully from me then asked for a napkin.
When we came home I decided I had to figure out how to make actual, real Chocolate Squirrel for him. After many vanilla-based experiments (oh my poor family - so much ice cream to eat), we all agreed that this was the right version for us.
Chocolate Squirrel Ice Cream with Hazelnuts and Breadcrumbs
That Nigel Slater. He's such a genius. When I came across his recipe for a hazelnut and breadcrumb cream and yogurt concoction, I knew I had to drop the homemade Nutella one I had been working on, even though it had been good. My friend Vicky had also just been complaining to me about how every year, the squirrels get all the hazelnuts from her tree before she can pick any of them. So of course I had to stick with the hazelnuts. This is a slightly pebbly, crunchy vanilla-based ice cream that is just the thing for anyone, whether human or squirrel.
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts
About 1 1/3 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup skinned, toasted hazelnuts
1 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup granulated vanilla sugar, or regular sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped from pod
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup (or substitute light corn syrup)
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 375°.
Place the breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and scatter the sugar over it. Coarsely chop hazelnuts. Add to the breadcrumb mixture. Put in upper rack of oven for 8-10 minutes, keeping an eye on it, as the sugar can burn. When golden brown and well toasted, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. This can be made a day in advance.
For the chocolate swirl
Whisk together sugar, golden syrup, water and cocoa. Over low heat bring mixture just to a boil, cooking for about one minute. Turn off heat and pour into a heat-proof container. Cool mixture and place in the fridge. This is best prepared the day before, as this will thicken in the fridge.
For the ice cream custard
In a large bowl, prepare an ice bath. Place a smaller bowl in the ice bath and set a fine-meshed strainer on top. Pour heavy cream through the sieve into the bowl.
In a small saucepan, combine sugar and milk. On medium-low heat, warm the mixture. When warm, add the scraped vanilla bean pod and seeds. Turn off heat, cover with lid, and allow vanilla to infuse for 30 minutes.
After the 30 minutes, reheat the milk over medium-low heat until it is hot, Stir together egg yolks. Add a few tablespoons of milk to the yolks and stir quickly. Add a bit more milk and stir again. This warms up the egg yolks and prevents them from curdling.
Pour the yolk mixture into the heated milk-sugar mixture and stir quickly using a heat-proof spatula. Continue stirring and scraping the bottom. This will prevent lumps and clumps from forming. As you stir and scrape, you will eventually notice that the bottom is becoming easier to scrape. It almost feels silky, as if the spatula is gliding across the bottom of the saucepan. This is a sign that your custard is nearly done. It is fully done when the mixture coats the spatula.
Pour the custard through the sieve and into the bowl of cream. Scrape any remaining goodness from the spent vanilla pod into the bowl as well. Add vanilla extract. Mix quickly and vigorously so that everything is combined and cools slightly. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator to cool completely. Overnight is best.
When the mixture has thoroughly cooled, place it in your ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's instructions. Once you have started the churning, add the breadcrumb and nut mixture.
When finished churning, drizzle chocolate mixture into the bottom of a freezer-proof container. Place half of the finished ice cream on top of the chocolate, then add more chocolate on top, swirling through the ice cream. Add remaining ice cream then drizzle more chocolate over the top again and swirl. Cover or wrap tightly and place the container in the freezer for a few hours to firm up a bit more.