When we finished up our end of the school year testing a couple weeks ago we were due for a celebration. The boys, after a great deal of discussion over lunch, decided to celebrate by putting together their own picnic. Because really; what do you do immediately after eating? You plan a picnic, of course. They got together and planned.
Sidebar: They’ve been really into “planning” lately. If I were a more panaroid person I’d think they were plotting against me. As it is, I’m just glad they’re getting along so well and are capable of linear thought.
Liam informed me that this was a project they intended to take on themselves. I stepped aside just in time as the sheer spontaneous force of energy that is five little boys working together sprang into action. The side door kept banging open and shut as all five boys ran back and forth between the kitchen and the yard. There was a great deal of clanging from the silverware drawer, the squelch-woosh-smack of the fridge being repeatedly accessed, and the dull thud of the pantry door getting slammed (“I don’t know how it slammed, Mom, I just so gently closed it with my foot like THIS!” [insert roundhouse kick here.])
Even though I knew the clean-up on my end would be a project of epic proportions I knew enough to bite my tongue and let them have at it. When I’m bright enough to get out of their way and let them try these sorts of things I am repayed dividends by watching the concentration and joy on their faces.
The activity came to a swift and dramatic end with an announcement from the boys. They had set up a blanket [large beach towel] in the front yard and Dad and Mom were invited to their picnic. The front door was thrown open and five beaming boys came out single file, walking ever so carefully to avoid dropping their precious cargo: Liam had a tray with little pyrex mise en place bowls full of peanut butter and strawberry freezer jam and a plate full of rough-hewn slices of whole wheat sourdough bread. (His knife skills are pretty good for a 10 year old…) Aidan had two precariously full glasses of ice water in his hands and a half eaten bag of Doritos tucked under his arm. Ty had another two filled-to-the rim glasses of ice water. Leif carried the last glass of water and a banana. Rowan brought up the end of the line with two lollipops, a banana and a cat-eating-yellow-jacket grin.
They all walked like they were balancing books on their heads down the length of our sidewalk. They crossed the first loop of driveway and carefully deposited their bounty on the beach towel blanket they had so lovingly arranged in the full sun. My husband, who was working on a ladder, climbed down and joined us. They asked me to take a picture of their feast. I was more than happy to oblige.
My boys’ picnic feast
After five minutes in the hot sun, when we had exhausted the ice water, chips and most of the bread, the boys bounced up and ran off yelling, “This is the best day EVER!” I was glad to not sit in the blazing heat any more and beat a retreat to the kitchen with the tray of leftover peanut butter, jam and other picnic detritus.
I broke the out the peanut butter again later in the day to make Manipulation Cookies (see here for explanation and recipe.) The next morning, when there were only a few cookies left, and those that were left were stripped of their chocolate kisses by my stealthy 2 year old, I sent those cookies to a better place; my ice cream maker.
In one recipe I was able to cram most things that I love in a dessert; cookies, peanut butter, chocolate, peanuts, and hazelnuts. This ice cream recipe is super simple because it’s Philadelphia style. In case you haven’t had your nose crammed into “The Perfect Scoop” like I have the past couple weeks, Philadelphia style basically means it’s easy. You don’t have eggs to temper with this recipe. Measure, whisk, add, stir, pour, freeze. That’s the method to this madness.
Manipulation (Peanut Butter) Cookie Chocolate Malt Ice Cream
1 1/8 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons barley malt syrup (available in health food stores or departments, beer and wine making suppliers, and internet/mail order/store front baker supply stores.)
1 1/4 cups whole milk (if you use skim, it’ll be too icy!)
3 cups heavy cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate malt syrup (Can’t find any in stores? Never fear. My recipe is below! In a pinch, you can substitute any old chocolate syrup. I recommend Nesquick because it doesn’t have High Fructose Corn Syrup!)
3 Tablespoons Frangelico liqueur
a pinch of salt
10 Manipulation Cookies, stripped of their chocolate kisses (any peanut butter cookie will suffice here, but this ice cream is really excellent using Manipulation Cookies, specifically.)
In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, add malt syrup, sugar, chocolate malt syrup and milk. Whisk or mix on low speed until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. When you no longer hear or feel sugar scraping on the bottom of the bowl, add vanilla, Frangelico, and heavy cream. Stir until combined. If using a stand mixer, you can beat on a slightly higher speed to incorporate a little air for a fluffier-textured finished ice cream.
Freeze according to your ice cream maker manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream is nearly frozen, coarsely crumble the cookies into the mixture. Allow ice cream to finish freezing, transfer to a container with a tight fitting lid and allow to harden for about two hours in the freezer.
In an homage to my kids’ efforts with their picnic the previous day, I made us PB&J Sundaes with this ice cream and some more stawberry freezer jam. Every PB&J should be this good!
Fabulous Chocolate Malt Syrup
(Adapted from an Alton Brown recipe) The delicate malt flavor in this syrup makes it so sublime it can rival old fashioned malteds. Heck, maybe it holds up to them because it is old fashioned.)
1 ½ cups water
3 cups sugar
¾ cups Dutch process cocoa powder
¾ cup black cocoa powder (If you can’t readily find this, you can order from here, or double up on the dutch process cocoa powder and omit this.)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 Tablespoons barley malt syrup
In a moment that proves that Alton Brown is a super hero, he says, “In a small pot, bring water and sugar to a boil and whisk in [remaining ingredients]” Um wow. When I did this, I very nearly had a boil over. I say save a couple years on your life and use a large saucepan or pot. Here are my instructions.In a large sauce pan (sorry, Mr. Brown) add sugar and water and bring to a boil. Whisk in the barley malt syrup, salt and vanilla. Add the cocoa powder about 1/2 a cup at a time and whisk until thoroughly incorporated. Continue whisking until the cocoa powders are totally dissolved. Lower heat and reduce slightly. Don’t overdo it here or you’ll end up with hot fudge sauce. Delicious, to be sure, but we’re shooting for syrup here. You’ll know you’ve reduced it enough when you do “the test”. Dunk a spoon in the syrup and allow excess to drip away. Drag your finger down the back of the spoon. If it leaves a clear clean space on the spoon that doesn’t fill back in your syrup is ready.
Kill the heat, pour through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher or jar and cool completely before using. You can transfer this to a squeeze bottle after it is completely cool. It makes the best malted chocolate milk of all time and is an obvious choice for topping ice cream! Best yet? It doesn’t have any funky preservatives, food coloring or the dreaded high fructose corn syrup!