Mint Condition

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Quick question! What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Mine?

Mint + Chip.

Why?

‘Cause it’s double the coolness factor. Frozen in temperature and cooling in flavor. It’s next-level sensory overload. All of your senses are tested:

You SEE the bright green color
You SMELL that crisp scent of mint
You FEEL that cold, refreshing cream melt in your mouth as you bite into those chocolate chunks
You TASTE that creamy delicious mint packed with that bittersweet chocolate

And well, HEAR? If you’ve ever sat next to me while enjoying said ice cream (or pretty much any food I thoroughly enjoy), you’re sure to hear lots of “MMM” sounds. Sorry not sorry.

This year we started a garden on our balcony. It’s taken off and has done considerably well. Even with the sudden drop and rise of temperatures all summer long, most of our plants have been pretty happy. Our mint plant, which we originally planted next to thyme and lavender, took off immediately and spread throughout the entire planter within a week! That was an amateur mistake on my own part ’cause I knew that mint likes to take over EVERYTHING. And she did. So we uprooted her and placed her in her own good-sized planter where she was able to stretch and relax without bothering her next-door neighbors.

Having an abundance of mint isn’t a bad thing, either. I decided to harvest a few bunches and steep them into heavy cream as a base for this amazing ice cream recipe I found through David Lebovitz’ book, The Perfect Scoop.

The recipe was originally written for a Chocolate Malt Ice Cream flavor, so I made some adjustments to the recipe, and omitted the cocoa powder, replacing it with a snack-sized box of crushed Whoppers candy and chocolate sandwich cookies like OREO’S. I also added more heavy cream (using one of my local favorites from Sunshine Dairy). The resulting flavor is intensely rich, creamy and so silky smooth. Try it.

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Malted Mint Whopper Cookie Ice Cream
Yields 1 quart
Recipe via The Perfect Scoop

INGREDIENTS
3 cups heavy cream, divided
2 cups fresh mint leaves, packed
1 cup whole milk
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup malted milk powder

METHOD
Heat 1.5 cups heavy cream with the mint in a medium-sized saucepan. Once brought to a boil, whisk vigorously and lower heat to a low simmer, continuing to whisk. Remove pan from the heat and strain into a large bowl the rest of the heavy cream into a large bowl, combining the steeped minty cream together.

Gently warm the milk, sugar and salt in the same saucepan. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the yolks and temper the eggs by slowly adding the warmed milk to the  yolks, continuously whisking and scraping the now tempered egg yolk/milk mixture back in the pan.

Using a rubber spatula continue to stir and scrape the combined mixture over medium heat, making sure not to “cook” or “curdle” the eggs. Once the mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spatula, immediately remove from the heat and pour through a strainer and into a shallow pan or bowl. Add the vanilla extract and malt powder. Cool the mixture by placing it into the refrigerator till chilled, overnight is preferred.

Once ready to churn, operate your ice cream maker and add the crushed Whopper candy and cookies toward the last five minutes of the churning process. Place the ice cream in the freezer to further freeze. Enjoy! (Or have a quick milkshake. Your call.)

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Cookie Mom-ster

momlede

For this Mother’s Day I wanted to dedicate this post to my mom. She is an amazing, smart, strong, beautiful, hard-working, loving, and resilient woman. I like to think (and hope) that I inherited all of those beautiful qualities from her.  Happy Mother’s Day, mama!

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Unlike me, my mom is very particular when it comes to sweets. She loves desserts with fruit, whereas I love rich desserts with chocolate. Remember this post? But one of the desserts my mom and me can agree on are Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. They’re her favorite cookie because they have a form of fruit in them, I imagine.

So when my parents came up to visit me a couple months ago, I asked my mom what kind of snack she wanted me to make for their trip back home. She mentioned oatmeal raisin cookies, so I put this recipe together that I thought she would love. I had a bottle of rum on hand from a rum cake recipe I always make for her, and decided to use it to rehydrate the raisins. I love the rich, caramel-like flavor the rum gives after they’ve been soaking with the raisins, so I added them to the dough. The recipe isn’t too sweet, so I also rolled the dough in sugar to create a pretty sugary crust. The end result is a not-too-sweet, spicy, (a bit boozy) oatmeal raisin cookie with a great depth of flavor.

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Snacks intended for their voyage back home, my parents confessed to me that the cookies were all gone way before they even got home. Apparently, my dad was a fan of them, too!

What are your favorite cookie flavors? What recipe reminds you most of your mom? Share your stories in the comments below; I’d love to read them!

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Mom’s Favorite Oatmeal Rum Raisin Sugar Cookies
Yields 1 dozen medium-sized cookies

INGREDIENTS 
1/3 cup dark rum, more if needed
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar, for dusting

METHOD
To rehydrate the raisins, place them  into a small bowl and pour the rum into the bowl. The raisins should be completely immersed in the liquid. Add more if needed. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars on medium-speed till incorporated. Add the egg and vanilla and mix till combined.

Drain the excess rum from the rehydrated raisins, reserving the rum. Set raisins aside. Fold in the rum into the mixture. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are mixed well.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, spices, salt, and rolled oats. Slowly add the flour mixture into the sugar/butter mixture on low till just combined. (Don’t over-mix.) Fold in the rehydrated raisins to the dough. The dough will be slightly sticky—that’s OK.

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Place the dough in the freezer for about 30 minutes, or until the dough is solidified. (Cook’s Note: If you’re making these a day ahead, wrap and place into the refrigerator overnight.)

While your dough chills, preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Place about a half-cup of sugar into a small bowl. Set aside.

Roll a small ice cream scoopful (or 2 Tablespoonfuls) of dough and place into the bowl of sugar and fully coat the cookie ball. Place the dough ball onto the sheet tray, leaving about 2 1/2 inches of space between each cookie.

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Bake for about 14-17 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges. When done, remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

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The Cookie Strikes Back

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One of my favorite ice cream sandwich memories were in the early-2000s, in the countless times I waited in a line that curved around the corner of a bakery in Westwood (close to the UCLA campus) called Diddy Riese for a sweet treat. Their ice cream sandwiches were a big deal to Angelenos and UCLA students alike. It was a #treatyoself moment every time my friends and I would drive over and grab a sandwich. Back then the cookies sold for .25 each and $1 for a scoop of ice cream to make the sandwich, and you could mix-match whatever cookie and ice cream flavor you wanted. I’d always take an extra bag of cookies back home for sharing and snacking.

I haven’t been to Diddy Riese in years, but I always enjoy a good ice cream sandwich when I can get one, or better yet, make one. The following cookie and ice cream sandwich combo was with some ingredients I already had in my refrigerator and pantry. Tart blueberries and rich white chocolate chips just go so greatly together, and I love the idea of a rum-coconut ice cream with a nice salty macadamia nut note.

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Brown Butter Blueberry White Chocolate Cookies

Adapted from Keep It Sweet Desserts
Makes about 12 large cookies

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large whole egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2  teaspoon Kosher sea salt
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup fresh blueberries, washed and dried 

METHOD
Brown the butter by heating in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the butter turns a medium brown color, remove from the heat and pour into a small bowl. Allow to cool.

Once the butter has cooled completely, place into a large bowl of an electric mixer with the sugars; beat on medium-high speed till well combined. Add in the egg and vanilla extract, mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; slowly add into the wet ingredients with the mixer on low speed till just combined.

Turn off the mixer and with a spatula, slowly stir in the white chocolate chips and then gently fold in the blueberries. Wrap the dough into a container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, overnight if possible.

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When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. With an ice cream scoop, scoop the dough (about 4 tablespoons) onto a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet tray. Bake the cookies till medium golden brown, about 17-20 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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streetcardevouric

Macadamia Nut-Rum-Coconut Ice Cream
Yields 1 pint

INGREDIENTS
3 cups coconut milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup honey
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, roasted and roughly chopped
1 1/2 Tablespoons coarse sea salt

METHOD
Heat the coconut milk in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring the bottom every few minutes to avoid scorching.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks till slightly thickened. Set aside.

When the coconut is heated and it begins to haze, take a ladle or 1/2 cup measuring cup and slowly add in the heated milk into the egg yolks. Whisk quickly to incorporate and to avoid curdling. Slowly add in more milk until 1/2 of the milk is incorporated, then add in all of the egg-milk mixture back into pot and turn the heat down to medium. Whisk the mixture to avoid curdling.

While the mixture heats up, set up an ice bath in a large bowl.  Wait for the custard to thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon. When the custard is thickened, remove from heat and place into a shallow pan or bowl. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.

Place the bowl over the ice bath and whisk the custard to cool down. Allow ice cream base to fully cool down in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Place ice cream base into your ice cream maker and operate using the machine’s instructions.

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Cookie Sandwich Assembly
Pair the cookies according to likeness in size. Scoop the ice cream onto the bottom side of one cookie and top with the other. Place into the freezer for about an hour to finally set. Enjoy!

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Khaki Wishes and Cookie Dreams

trooplede

I was never a Girl Scout. In lieu of those activities, my mom encouraged me take ballet and tap dance classes, piano lessons and vocal coaching. I was a bit of a singer/dancer as a child, taking any chance I could to steal the limelight to sing in front of an audience (large or small). I loved singing and dancing so much that I didn’t miss or even notice the other activities I could’ve been doing with other kids my age. It wasn’t until I was about 12 years old when I first saw Troop Beverly Hills, a movie about a group of Wilderness Girls from the 90210, led by the fierce (and amazingly dressed) Shelley Long.

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Troop Beverly Hills is one of my favorite movies, and after re-watching it in my 20s I immediately recognized one of my favorite artists, a young Jenny Lewis. In fact, the movie is flooded with young stars you may recognize.

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Looking back, I kind of wish I would’ve been a Wilderness Girl, just so that I could sing the “Cookie Time” song.

So right now (with all of my social media channels flooded with posts of Girl Scout cookies) I’m craving Thin Mints so very much. But no such luck on finding any Girl Scout cookie sales booths. Being the proactive and slightly impatient person that I am, I decided to create my own. The resulting recipe is vegan-optional (if you choose to use margarine instead of butter) and has a very subtle coconut flavor. ‘Cause mint and coconut go together like khaki and green, right? I’m calling ’em “Thick Mints” for obvious reasons.

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Homemade Thick Mints
Recipe slightly adapted from BakingBites.com
Yields about 2 1/2 dozen

INGREDIENTS
For the cookies:
8 ounces butter (or margarine)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup rice flour (I used Mochiko)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups all purpose flour

For the dipping chocolate:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
1/8 cup canola oil

METHOD
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter (or margarine) and sugar till fully incorporated. Stir in the salt, extracts, coconut milk and cocoa powder. Mix until the cocoa powder is integrated and the batter looks like chocolate frosting. Add the flours and mix till just combined, making sure to not over-mix.

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Form the dough into a cylinder-like roll (think rolling pin-sized). Wrap the dough completely in Saran or other plastic wrap tightly. Place the dough into the freezer for at least 3 hours or overnight.

After properly resting, remove dough from the freezer and carefully discard plastic wrap. Using a sharp serrated knife cut dough into 1/2-inch discs, slowly cutting so as to not break the dough.

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Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake for 11-13 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack, about 5 minutes.

While the cookies bake, make the peppermint coating. Heat a sauce pot of water till boiling. Place the baking chocolate into a heat-resistant bowl over the boiling water, making sure not to get water  into the chocolate.

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(Cook’s Note: I have read recipes online instructing to place chocolate into a microwave. Please, I repeat, please don’t do that. Heating chocolate in the microwave will oftentimes scorch it. Chocolate is a temperamental food that needs to be treated carefully. On that note, please don’t ever heat chocolate over a direct flame. Melting chocolate over a double-boiler creates a more controllable heat source.)

Once the chocolate has melted, stir in the peppermint extract. Then slowly add in the oil to thin it out.

Slowly drop the cookies into the melted chocolate. Turn to coat the cookies entirely, then lift the cookie out of the chocolate with a rubber spatula.

Place the dipped cookies onto a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Place the cookies in the freezer to set for at least an hour, preferably overnight if you’re patient!

Now it’s “cookie time, it’s cookie time, it’s cookie time!”

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots are property of Weintraub Entertainment Group)

Don’t Mess With Cookie Lyon

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Jamal

By a show of hands, who’s also obsessed with Fox’s television show, Empire? I just can’t get enough. I was introduced to the show via some friends at work who also share my love for VH1’s Love and Hip Hop.

“Oh girl, you think Love and Hip Hop is good, you definitely need to watch Empire. You’ll thank me later,” one friend said.

“You’re not watching Empire yet? Get on it, girl! It’s like a scripted, well acted version. But 1000-plus times better. Trust me,” another friend exclaimed.

So I gave in to the peer pressure and watched the pilot that night. My expectations were exceeded. Are you kidding? This show is phenomenal. (Know that I don’t use that term lightly.) My girl Taraji P. Henson is KILLING IT as the lead heroine, Cookie Lyon. Mama is fierce! And I just can’t get over how gorgeous Jamaal (portrayed by actor Jussie Smollett) is.

(Side note: Did anyone realize a young Jussie was in THIS movie?) The relationship he and Cookie have is so beautiful to watch, like how a mama lioness watches over her cub. This show proves that a mother’s love is stronger than just about anything.

With all this talk about Miss Cookie, I got to thinking: It’s been a few weeks since I’ve made some actual cookies at home. So I got to the kitchen and started baking away. These cookies are such a great twist on the classic chocolate chip cookie. The brown butter deepens the flavor and the pecans add spice with a nice bit of crunch.

(Editor’s Note: All television show screenshots are property of 20th Century Fox.)

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Brown Butter Spiced Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cookie recipe slightly adapted from Joy the Baker
Spiced pecan recipe by A Streetcar Named Devour
Yields about 3 dozen cookies

FOR THE SPICED PECANS

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 cup water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup pecans, whole

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Add all ingredients into a mixing bowl and thoroughly coat the pecans.  Spread the pecans into a single layer onto the sheet tray. Place into the oven for 15 minutes. Once done, remove and allow to cool.

FOR THE COOKIES

INGREDIENTS
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (recipe above)

METHOD
Place half of the butter into a medium skillet. Melt the butter over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally to avoid burning. The butter will begin to foam while cooking. Once the butter starts to smell nutty and the color is light amber, it’s done. Carefully remove the butter and pour it into a small bowl to cool down.

While the brown butter cools, mix the other 1/2 cup of butter with the sugars, until the mixture is well incorporated. Add in the vanilla and the egg. Once cool, pour in the brown butter. Mix until smooth. Slowly add in all the dry ingredients until just incorporated.

Place the dough into a sealable container and into the refrigerator to cool for at least an hour. Even better if it’s overnight.

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When you’re ready to bake the dough, preheat the oven to 350°F. Scoop the refrigerated dough in 2-tablespoon scoops onto a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet tray, lining them so that they have plenty of space as they will spread considerably once baked. Bake the cookies for about 13 minutes, or until they’re a pretty golden brown. Remove from the oven, and allow them to cool for at about 5 minutes.

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Recreating…

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I’ve been a little homesick lately. Now don’t get me wrong–I LOVE my new city. I first publicly declared it here. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss my old home. Oakland was my residence for over 4 years. Perhaps not a long time for some, but for me, (the type of person who can’t sit still in one place for too long) Oakland was the closest thing I had to a permanent home in my adult years.

When I decided to move out of the Bay Area, I left behind a group of friends I like to call my second family. The faces I met at the various jobs I worked, the classmates I met in culinary school, and the friends I was lucky to reconnect with from high school. Those people are my family. I hold them so dearly to heart, I miss them every day.

Another big part of Oakland that I miss is the food. The Bay Area has a plethora of amazing restaurants. I was lucky enough to work in a few of them, as well as befriend some folks who did as well. One of the best restaurants in Oakland (in my humble opinion) is Ramen Shop. The restaurant hosts some of the best ramen I’ve had in the States. But one of the menu items I still can’t get out of my head is their dessert. Particularly, their Black Sesame Ice Cream Sandwich (with brown sugar cookies).

It’s a delicious pairing–like a vanilla-hued, silk-blend Stella McCartney pantsuit with nude strappy leather Céline heels. It’s a delicate match of toasted and creamy.

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I’ve made a few attempts at recreating this recipe, and the one I’m sharing with you tastes as close to the original that I could construct. If you ever find yourself in the East Bay, you’ve got to try out Ramen Shop. And for those of you (us) that aren’t, test out my recipe below to hold you over until then.

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Black Sesame Ice Cream Sandwiches
Yields 6 sandwiches

INGREDIENTS
Black Sesame Seed Ice Cream
Brown Butter Sugar Cookies

METHOD
Turn 12 cookies face up onto the countertop. Using an ice cream scoop, take 1/2 cup of ice cream and place each scoop onto 6 of the cookies. Using an offset spatula, spread evenly to the edges. Top the ice cream with a second cookie and press down to adhere. Freeze until solid, about an hour.

6 Shades of Grey

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This recipe is so amazing on its own. But with the addition of the Brown Butter Sugar Cookies it packs a punch full of delicate, creamy, and nutty flavor.
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Black Sesame Seed Ice Cream
Recipe slightly adapted from My Second Breakfast

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE PASTE
1/2 cup black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons honey

FOR THE ICE CREAM BASE
black sesame paste
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

METHOD
In a small, dry, non-stick pan or cast-iron skillet, toast sesame seeds over medium heat until they start to pop and you start to smell a subtle nutty aroma.

Set aside to cool.

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Once cool, grind in a spice grinder until a paste begins to form. Add honey. Grind until the sesame seeds are in a paste-like consistency and hold together when the mixture is squeezed between your fingers.

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FOR THE ICE CREAM
In a small pot, heat up milk, sugar, sesame paste, and salt, stirring until sugar dissolves. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks until they start to turn light in color. Slowly add the warmed milk mixture to the eggs, whisking all the time (need to add a bit at a time so that the eggs don’t curdle).

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Once the milk is fully incorporated into the eggs, return the mixture to the pot and heat over medium heat, stirring, until thickened. The mixture should coat the back of a spoon and hold a line. Pour mixture into cold cream and add vanilla. Mix until combined.

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Place into the refrigerator to cool down for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. If you want to speed up the process, you can place the bowl with the ice cream mixture into an ice bath and stir, but will still need to store in fridge till fully cooled down.

Churn the ice cream in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you don’t have an ice cream maker (mine is still in California…insert sad face emoji here) you can line a loaf pan or other freezer-safe container with plastic wrap and place the ice cream base in it. You will need to mix it with a spoon after the first 2 hours, then return it back to the freezer. Mix it second time after 2 more hours, spreading the top surface evenly with a rubber spatula. Then, place another piece of plastic wrap onto the top, lightly touching the surface. This way, the ice cream won’t have ice crystals at the top once fully frozen.

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