A mere week stands between myself and summer break. That week feels like an angry Hungarian Horntail at the moment, and summer break is my golden egg. Except with less screechy wailing.
A few weeks ago Jonji and I got a brief respite from our usual homework-filled weekends when we journeyed all the way to Palm Springs for Todd’s belated birthday celebration. Todd and Jessica were there, obviously, as well as a couple of other couples, Dan and Tiffany, and Zack and Ashley. We all got there a bit late on Friday, due to leaving in the middle of post-work traffic, but all ended up in the infinity hot tub before finally going to bed. The rest of the weekend was spent in the sun, feeding crackers to greedy ducks and fish in the lake, and lounging in the pool. Jonji got the song, “Cat scratch fevahhh” stuck into our heads, and every few minutes someone would start belting it out. Jonji and I sequestered ourselves semi-frequently to do homework, but saved plenty of time for the occasional game. Todd got thoroughly overexcited about the kayak that came with the house, and even convinced Jonji and Dan to take the blow-up boat out on the water with him in the dark. On the whole, the weekend was great—plenty of much-needed sun, games, and good company.
Besides that brief foray into Palm Springs, our days have been filled with the usual homework-and-cat-filled routine. One of my accomplishments over the past few weeks has been completing a semester-long book project. The book was a ton of work but also a lot of fun, especially since it was all about my own outlook on design and life. Plus, I just really love books.
I’ve taken out most of my stress of the past few crazy weeks by baking. We’ve had buckwheat-almond butter cookies, new kinds of sourdough bread (the new seeded version has converted Jonji to a daily bread-eater), apple pie, and even a birthday cake. That cake was for our friend Jake this past weekend, a new recipe from The Violet Bakery Cookbook, which I highly recommend to my fellow bakers. And if you’re wondering why I chose to make the cake pink, I didn’t—the raspberry purée in the frosting dyed it that pink!
As Jonji and I can’t get our own dog right now, we spend that unused energy picking out our favorite dogs from the daily passersby. One favorite, a sweet old basset hound, also has an extremely friendly owner. I may have been reading too much fantasy lately, but I think he may have some supernatural powers. Every time I’m looking out the window at him and his dog, no matter how dark it is inside our kitchen (it’s not as creepy as it sounds), he looks right at me and waves! And the other day Jonji and I were watching them with a couple other owner-dog pairs across the street and he turned to wave right as we looked out at them. Like I said, supernatural powers.
Last week my whole class had a graphic design show at a local gallery. The show was meant for us to exhibit all of the work we’ve been doing for the past two years. Although it was a true test of my patience and a real insight to how much I want to tell everyone what to do, it turned out to be a success! A few of us even built a bookshelf from a pallet we found on the side of the road. Everything ended up going smoothly and it was cool to see all of our work up in a real gallery.
Today Jonji is taking his Step 1 test! He has been studying like a mad man (and acting like one) for the past 5 weeks, and after today he can finally go back to normal life. Although, third year starts in one week and that’s also supposed to be insane, so I’m not sure how normal life will really be. While he starts school again, I will be beginning my summer internship. I found an awesome, small design studio in Downtown LA called Still Room, and through good timing and plenty of luck I secured an internship with them. Since it’s part-time, I will still have plenty of time to post to Feast and read my nerdy books (hallelujah!).
Since I’ve been such a sugar fiend lately, I decided to provide a sugar-fiend-friendly recipe. Although as far as sugary desserts go, this one isn’t too bad. And if this doesn’t reduce your stress levels, I don’t know what will.
Peanut Butter Brownie Ice Cream
makes 1 quart | brownie recipe adapted from Sweet Cream & Sugar Cones
for the brownies:*
130g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
330g (about 1 ⅓ cups) sugar
4 large eggs
*You can, of course, use your favorite brownie recipe instead of this one. If you do, I advise using a recipe on the cakier side, because brownies with a high butter content freeze really hard—this isn’t the time to use Thomas Keller’s 3-stick brownie recipe (make those just for eating another time).
for the ice cream:
5 egg yolks
165g (¾ cup) sugar, divided in half
400ml (1 ½ cup) heavy cream
240ml (1 cup) milk
½ tsp fine sea salt
90g (⅓ cup) smooth peanut butter
Make your brownies one day before you make the ice cream, or on the same day you make the custard if you’re opting to chill the custard overnight; this will allow them ample time to chill.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8×8-inch baking dish with butter and line with parchment paper.
Whisk 130g flour, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1 tsp salt together in a small bowl. Set aside. Heat 1 inch of water in a small pot over medium heat. Place a medium bowl containing the chopped 1 stick butter and 6 oz chocolate on top of the simmering water—just make sure the bowl isn’t touching the water (you can use a bain-marie to do all of this instead). Stir occasionally, until the butter and chocolate have fully melted.
Take the bowl off the water, then stir in 330g sugar. Stir the eggs in one at a time, until fully incorporated each time. Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined.
Pour the brownie batter into your prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out moist, with maybe a few crumbs, but is otherwise clean. Let cool fully in the pan, then lift out and cut as desired, reserving 225g for crumbling into the ice cream. (Note: these brownies are on the cakier side, but they actually get better and more fudgy as the days go by, so if you’re looking to eat the rest out of hand, I advise eating them the following day for best results).
Whisk the egg yolks lightly just to break them up. Whisk in half the sugar (6 tbsp), then set aside.
Prepare the ice bath: place a medium-sized bowl inside a larger bowl, then set a fine-meshed sieve on top. Add ice cubes to the larger bowl, and some cold water. Place the peanut butter in the smaller bowl, then set aside.
Stir the milk, cream, salt, and remaining 6 tbsp sugar together in a medium heavy-bottomed pot, and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the mixture reaches a bare simmer, when you see tiny bubbles rising on the edges, turn the heat to medium. Slowly pour ½ cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Whisk in another ½ cup of the milk mixture. Then slowly pour the egg yolks into the pot containing the remaining milk mixture, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula. Cook another one or two minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens considerably (if you run your finger down the back of the spoon a clean trail should remain).
Pour the custard through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl containing the peanut butter. Stir the peanut butter into the custard (if you have to use a whisk, don’t whisk too quickly). Make sure the ice bath is cold enough, then stir occasionally until completely cool. Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Churn in your ice cream machine, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
As you transfer the ice cream to a container, sprinkle brownie chunks in between spoonfuls. Freeze, then enjoy!