An update! HC’s friend Charlie (who got married in the last post, L.A. Story) wrote to tell me that he was looking up a Jeni’s recipe and that it used cream cheese. This would explain the consistency that I found so unusual! (I corroborated this with HC’s friend Joe, who among other things was once a pastry chef, who agreed with me.) Mystery solved — maybe.
On to today’s installment. Bi-Rite is one of the Bay Area’s treasures, a grocery store and ice cream shop with two locations (one near Dolores Park, the other near Alamo Square). The line for the Bi-Rite Creamery can extend down the block, in an archetypal display of our local love for queuing.* I love a lot of their flavors, particularly Crème Brûlée and Brown Sugar with Ginger Caramel, but Ricanelas (cinnamon with snickerdoodles) is also very good.
Or at least, it’s a very good idea. I am a cinnamon fiend (it’s my secret guacamole ingredient), and I have always thought Bi-Rite’s version is a little weak. Now, to be fair, Bi-Rite has to cater to a mass market, and I don’t. So maybe they have to reduce the cinnamon strength. But I have done a major modification in order to suit my whims. Most cinnamon ice cream recipes use cinnamon sticks, steeped in the hot milk mixture and then fished out before chilling. I prefer to use ground cinnamon for added power.
Now, there’s a reason that the recipes don’t do this. Ground cinnamon does not like to dissolve into dairy. I don’t know why — I’m not a scientist. But basically, you have to whisk extra hard when it’s on the stove top, and you will also have to whisk again before pouring the chilled mixture into the ice cream maker. However, I think it’s worth it for the benefit in flavor, and the cinnamon won’t separate out of the chilled ice cream. Also, the base will be a lot thicker than normal. This is why I have reduced the number of egg yolks down to two.
As for the snickerdoodles, I use the tried and trusted Smitten Kitchen recipe. I make two modifications. First, I halve the recipe (you don’t need that many cookies). Second, I don’t believe in drop cookies and I don’t believe in scooping out dough. Like the good son of an Indian mother, I use my hands to grab a piece of dough, shape it into a ball approximately an inch in diameter, and then roll it in the cinnamon sugar before baking according to the recipe. If you do this, you’ll end up with about 36-40 cookies, of which you’ll only need about ten for the ice cream. The rest are a bonus. Give ’em to your friends!
I’ve allotted myself this recipe because it’s a rare one to involve both baking and ice cream making, because I love cinnamon, and because I can’t remember anyone loving the finished product more than me. I promise that the next recipe will be the favorite of someone much less narcissistic than myself (because robots usually don’t egos).
For the Snickerdoodles:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, plus more if needed
1 large eggs
For the ice cream:
2 cups cream
2 cups whole milk
¾ cup sugar
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Make the snickerdoodles: Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Cream the butter and ¾ cup sugar on medium speed with an electric or standing mixer. Once light and fluffy, add the egg and mix on medium speed until combined. With a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour mixture. Pulse the mixer until the dough is incorporated and no streaks of flour remain visible, but do not overbeat. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours, but preferably at least 36 hours. You can also freeze the dough and use as needed.
When ready to bake the cookies, combine ¼ cup sugar and ground cinnamon in a small bowl. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place oven rack in middle of oven. Preheat over to 400° F. Pinch off a small piece of dough with your hands and shape into a ball approximately one inch in diameter (it’s ok to add or subtract to get to the right volume, but just make sure to shape it into a ball). Roll in cinnamon sugar and place on baking sheet, then repeat, spacing each ball about an inch and a half apart. If you can chill the sheets for a few minutes in the refrigerator before baking, that’s ideal to minimize spreading, but don’t sweat it if you can’t. Bake one sheet at a time for 10-12 minutes, rotating sheet five minutes in, until cookies are beginning to crack. Cool on baking racks. Reserve ten cookies and crumble with your hands into small pieces, about the size of peas. Do what you will with the rest.
Make the ice cream: Set aside a large bowl with one cup milk at the bottom, and position a strainer above.
Whisk to combine 2 cups cream, 1 cup milk, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a medium pot. Heat over medium heat, whisking frequently, but don’t let it boil.
Whisk two egg yolks in a medium bowl. It’s OK if there are some traces of egg white — no need to be a perfectionist — but try to minimize that.
When the dairy mixture is hot but not yet simmering (honestly, if it starts to simmer a little, you’ll be OK), remove from heat. Slowly ladle about a cup into the egg yolks, whisking with one hand while ladling with the other to temper the yolks
Once complete, transfer the yolk mixture to the pot, and then return to medium heat. Stir the mixture with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom at times. Once the custard is thick enough to slightly coat the back of the spatula (another sign: you will start to notice that scraping the bottom of the pot encounters some solid residue), remove from heat and pour through the strainer.
I whisk the base as it strains to speed up the process a bit — this is optional. Wash the whisk off. Once the base has strained, whisk the base with the cup of milk that’s at the bottom until combined. Place the bowl in an ice bath to cool for thirty minutes (if you’re too lazy, it’s ok to just do this on the counter).
Then, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate for at least two hours before churning.
When ready to churn, whisk the mixture to reincorporate the cinnamon into the base. Pour into the ice cream maker and follow the instructions. When you are about 90% done (usually about 6-8 minutes if using the KitchenAid), add the crumbled snickerdoodles. Then, churn for another minute or two until the cookies are more or less evenly incorporated. Transfer to a container and freeze for eight hours.
* This was exemplified by a scene in the HBO series Looking, in which Jonathan Groff’s character Patrick (kind of a sweet idiot) is complaining about lining up for honey lavender ice cream when one can just buy it at the market, and his much smarter ex just looks him at says “It’s Bi-Rite, Patrick.” Some things are worth waiting for.