|Rob Gardiner, the "ice cream guy"|
We discussed different flavors and settled on pumpkin spice, in keeping with the season and current craze for all things pumpkin spicey (Google it if you dare). I briefly considered roasting a squash and making the puree, but if you've done this, you know pumpkin can be fickle, often too watery or stringy, unless you are lucky enough to know a farmer who grows Winter Luxury pumpkins, which make a beautiful and tasty puree. As my two Winter Luxuries are destined for Thanksgiving, canned pumpkin, (actually a mix of squashes), would have to do.
|Winter luxury squash, photo by Seed Savers Exchange|
Rob, with his student sous chef Chloe, then demonstrated several techniques: how to warm eggs that are cold from the refrigerator by placing them in a bowl of hot (but not boiling) water, how to use an egg separator, how to grate cinnamon and nutmeg on a microplane, how to prepare a double boiler, how to temper eggs, and two different ways to determine when a custard is done (by appearance for the pro, by thermometer for the rest of us).
When I handed out worksheets from the Nourish curriculum (an excellent resource!), I could see the lights dim in their eyes.
"Are we going to be tested on this?"
I reassured them that this was just a tool to help them learn, and there would be no test. They visibly relaxed. As middle schoolers, they have been inundated with standardized tests lately, and I felt sorry for them.
Our volunteer "professor" Erik directed a dialogue on how to improve the food system (he recorded a few ideas on the white board, pictured above). Every child was engaged, offering examples of how they personally could take action. They may be too young to vote in elections, or make purchasing decisions, but they are still influential in "voting with their forks." One of my favorite suggestions was "buy more organic and they'll make more."
Soon it was time for ice cream, so papers and pens were whisked away, and as Rob scooped, our Plate lead Darien added a gingersnap to each bowl. Again I was pleased again that everyone waited until all were seated and served--and thanks was given (by Gratitude lead Emma)--before savoring their treat. Great job, kids! Delaying gratification is such an important skill.
The ice cream got a thumbs up, even though it was more soupy (given our rush) than icy. KP lead Eliot, deprived of a job last week, began supervising clean up, but before we could even dry a dish, class was over. (I'm still working on time management. One of these weeks, we'll get the kitchen clean before the bell rings.) The students left happily, laughter echoing in the hallways.
Not five minutes had elapsed when an unfamiliar student poked her head into the classroom, looking hopeful.
"I heard you guys made ice cream. Got any left?"
Nope, not even a quarter teaspoon. We encouraged her to sign up for the next class, in February.
Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream
- Place saucepan with one inch of water over high heat until boiling. Lower heat to medium and keep at a simmer.
- Combine milk, sugar, and salt in another saucepan and cook, stirring, over medium heat until steam begins to rise and you see a ring of small bubbles around the edge of the milk.
- Prepare an ice bath in a large stainless steel bowl. Fill halfway with ice cubes and cold tap water.
- Whisk egg yolks in a medium stainless steel bowl until they are pale yellow. Temper eggs by slowly whisking warm milk mixture into egg yolks. Place bowl over saucepan with simmering water.
- Whisk constantly until mixture reaches 175 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Do not let tip of thermometer touch bottom of bowl. Do not allow mixture to boil.
- When mixture reaches 175 degrees, carefully remove bowl from saucepan and place in ice bath. Whisk mixture while keeping bowl partially submerged in ice water until cool.
- Add spices, pumpkin, and cream to egg mixture. Stir until combined. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator, preferably several hours or overnight.
- Add vanilla extract and stir to combine. Pour mixture into ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directions. Eat immediately as soft serve, or spoon into plastic containers, cover with wax paper and lid, and freeze until firm.