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Flavor #31: Horchata Ice Cream

6 May

Living in the Mission neighborhood in San Francisco, horchata ice cream or ricanelas ice cream from Bi-Rite Creamery is a no brainer.


But you see, my 31st flavor, the final ice cream flavor to be created in one year is dedicated to my number one fan. The one fan that loved every ice cream flavor (except anything with ginger) regardless of whether it was too icy, too sweet, or too bland. To Chris who has supported the project in the 31 flavor incarnation and the ice cream travel guide from day one and was the inspiration for it all.

Nearly seven years ago in 2006, we met through mutual friends at a quick stop at the taco trucks on International Blvd in Oakland. As I sat down on the sun worn plastic chairs with tacos and a drink, Chris said to me, “I always have horchata with my tacos.”

I said, “Me too!”

Horchata has always been a Mexican tradition, combining cinnamon, milk, and rice. Adding a cinnamon sugar cookie like a snickerdoodle makes perfect sense.


At Bi-Rite Creamery years later, he always got the ricanelas ice cream. The one flavor with the unpronounceable name that scoopers wrote out the pronunciation for in English. Ree-can-ell-as or something similar. Like horchata, ricanelas is inspired by a cinnamon cookie from Mexico. At Bi-Rite, they use snickerdoodle cookies. When the flavor was not present, Chris pouted and resorted to whatever I chose.

On horchata, Chris describes his love in practical terms, “Like I said, it’s both sweet and spicy. It has a cinnamon kick. Turns out that it has very high sugar content. Even the grittiness from the rice adds to the flavor. It makes it even better.”

So I dedicate this flavor to you, Chris. Not because you would eat ice cream in bed all day. Whether it’s grocery store brand, the rocket shaped pops…or pint sized small batches. You’re the only one like me that can eat more than 5 scoops of ice cream per day. Thank you for being with me every step of the way.



Adapted from Bi-Rite Creamery’s Sweet Cream Sugar Cones Cookbook and Bojon Gourmet


At least 20 blanched almonds
1/2 cup long grain rice
1 cinnamon stick
3 cups half and half
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
5 egg yolks
1-2 snickerdoodle cookies (optional; if you want to make your own, use this recipe)


To blanch the almonds (if you don’t buy them pre-blanched), place unpeeled almonds in a heatsafe bowl. Pour boiling water to barely cover the almonds. Let almonds sit for at most a minute. Drain and immediately rinse in cold water. Rinse one more time. Pat dry. The skins should slip right off.

Combine the blanched almonds, rice, and cinnamon stick in a dry medium saucepan. Over medium heat, toast until fragrant, about a few minutes. Immediately pour in the half and half into the saucepan. Remove from heat when steaming. Steep for at least 30 minutes to infuse the half and half with the toasted almonds, rice, and cinnamon stick.

Strain the horchata milk into a separate bowl, removing the almonds, rice, and cinnamon stick. In a clean medium saucepan, combine the horchata milk, sugar, ground cinnamon, and salt. Heat until steaming.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks.

Temper the egg yolks by pouring one cup at a time of the warmed horchata mixture into the bowl. Whisk the mixture after every cup until at least 1/4 cream mixture remains in the saucepan. Return the contents into the saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir frequently. The custard will thicken. Remove from heat when the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

Chill for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Churn in an ice cream maker based on the manufacturer’s instructions. Five minutes until the end of churning (or when it looks like it’s almost solid), add snickernoodle pieces.

Serve as is or on top of a fresh snickerdoodle cookie.


Special: Fresh Flavored Snow

12 Apr

Fresh snow! Flavored!!!

Many ask me:

How was ice cream invented?

I start by gesturing mountains with wide arm swoops, then I reach high above my head with my right hand.

Historians say that the Roman Emperor Nero sent his servants high in the mountains to retrieve fresh snow. Then they ran down to serve His Majesty the cold results, flavored with fruit or wine.


As we headed to the snowy mountains this winter, I decided to be Emperor Nero. At least in eating snow. This time, retrieved with car. And with my own resources of a spoon and bowl.

Without wine and fruit at my disposal, I found an alternative. On the night in Tahoe, three hours northeast of San Francisco, I found myself in grocery store buying a can of condensed milk. Now, buying a can opener would make complete sense.

Yet my usual stinginess declared You can find a can opener on your own! Don’t even think of buying a $4 can opener. You have two at home!


In the morning, we drove from restaurant to restaurant trying to borrow a can opener. Of course in modern times, restaurants don’t use can openers (bags save space and easily tear open). Finally landing at drugstore, a sympathetic cashier offered the can openers at the cashier where we quickly pierced the top without its contents.


Later in the afternoon, I ran to a snow bank, dug to find untouched snow, hand-scooped it into a bowl, and doused the whole thing with condensed milk. Sweet, creamy, sticky, cold, smooth yet not quite smooth, like ice cream, but not ice cream. Standing outside of the resort where I had spent 5 hours skiing, I took a plastic (compostable) spoon, and mixed the milk and snow together. Each spoonful was a milky sweet cold delight, especially in the bright sunny day in the mountains.


Did I follow Emperor Nero’s footsteps? I felt quite royal as I sat in the passenger seat of a 30 minute line of cars inching to exit the long road.




Fresh clean snow, lots of it (recommended to catch during a snowfall than to dug it from the ground)
One can of condensed milk
Optional: additional flavoring such as vanilla extract, fruit, jam, etc.


Scoop the snow into a bowl. Pour the entire contents of the condensed milk and optionally flavor over it. Mix gently to incorporate flavors. Eat quickly before the snow melts (although the melted liquid is quite tasty).


Flavor #30: Green Tea Asian Pear Sorbet

5 Apr

“Asian pears!” my friend’s boyfriend declared.

pears at the market

While pondering what produce to buy for a flavor for a belated Chinese New Year dinner, I spotted my friend and her boyfriend roaming through the farmers market. I described my predicament. An Asian flavor that used local produce. So no mango, no dragonfruit, no longan, no guava (as I sadly discovered guava in the United States is no match for guava in Asia) and more. I was ready to return to the blood orange sorbet, which worked wonderfully for all my tasters. Yet, I kept coming across Asian pears. Growing up, my mom bought them and filled the kitchen. After a small lunch, she would carve them into small pieces and place them in a ceramic bowl with painted blue Oriental details.

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Flavor #29: Blood Orange Sorbet

23 Mar

Blood oranges, if they were only in season during Halloween, would have been perfect for my annual zombie book club meeting. Instead, I chose pomengranates to represent the bloodinness of that time of the year. But appropriately, a (belated) anti-Valentine’s day potluck theme for my writing workshop was swiftly suggested and the blood orange idea popped up in my head. What is more anti-valentine than blood oranges?

To the uninitiated, the blood orange is a variety of orange that…just happens to have red streaks. The most common kind sold in the US is the Moro which is sweet…with a slight taste of raspberry.

Blood oranges at shop


Flavor #28: Eucalyptus Ice Cream

25 Feb

The challenge: Bring something with a foraged ingredient.
My answer: Eucalyptus. Eucalyptus ice cream!

Large sweeping decks, graced with fallen leaves from tall eucalyptus trees, filled up the backyard of a house in San Pablo. A house that my parents nicknamed the Silver house for the Silver family that stopped paying rent, destroyed the walls and carpet, and finally got evicted. I was only 6 or 7 at the time but I only remember the sweeping decks where my sister and I played while our parents dealt with the mess. The fog rolling across the bay. Was it San Francisco or Marin county? I am not sure, but I saw the water. And the scent of fallen eucalyptus leaves—a cool, calming smell in the midst of the fury and anger that my parents endured as landlords.

fresh leaves

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Flavor #27: Celery Ice Cream with Rum-Plumped Raisins and Peanut Butter Swirl

10 Feb

Celery ice cream?

It got me thinking. Celery? Green. Usually eaten raw. Almost tasteless, but with a slight herbaceous flavor. Chopped up into small bits for salads to add crunch. Usually great sliced and combined with Asian stir-fry noodles. The latter is my most prominent memory of celery.

fresh celery

Granted, making celery ice cream is a response to a reddit on making celery ice cream.

As I thought about it, celery ice cream begs to be paired with something. Then it came to me. Obviously. Never a big fan of peanut butter, I was surprised by peanut butter crack introduced to me by classmates during graduate school. Specifically from Peanut Butter and Company. Jars usually found in groceries like Whole Foods…but its sandwich shop is located in New York City.

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Flavor #26: Kiwi Lime Sorbet

4 Feb

I found kiwis on sale. Five for $1! In the middle of winter. In January. A summer fruit…on sale? Why? And really the final question…why not?

At Evergreen Super Market (one of my favorite markets in my ‘hood), I purchased two bags of those brown furry things, quite certain of the sweet juicy green innards. (And you know how much I love zombies!) Fortunately, the bags were most likely on sales because the kiwis were soft and squishy. So not sour at all! Ripe, perfect for a kiwi sorbet.

kiwi fruit

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Flavor #25: Dulce de Leche Granizado Ice Cream

25 Jan

Having studied Spanish for over 6 years, I knew what dulce de leche meant. Sweet. Sugar. Ice cream. The literal translation is sweet of milk.

I love this kind of sweet. As an ice cream maker pointed out, “nearly every ice cream shop has some kind of burnt, salted sugar”. In Argentina, it’s dulce de leche.

In the states where dulce de leche isn’t ample, it can be made from…of course…cans of condensed milk. I made fresh dulce de leche for my Spiced Apple Ice Cream with Dulce de Leche Swirl from condensed milk. This time, with a trip from Argentina, I brought back two jars of dulce de leche (and a bottle of dulce de leche syrup) from the ever-present chocolate shop, Havana, located across the street from the apartment where I stayed in Palermo in Buenos Aires.

dulce de leche scooping

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Flavor #24: Candy Cane Ice Cream

24 Jan

In my family, Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving) and post-Christmas day are important. Because of sales. Because of candy sales. Specifically candy canes. Every single type. The rainbow colored ones. The green ones. The purple ones. And…of course the classic red and white candy canes. (And then there are those who get too many candy canes and holiday cookies over the season…)

Granted, this ice cream is slightly out of season. At first, I thought that I should just call it peppermint ice cream. But let’s fess up, shall we? I bought candy canes the day after Christmas at Walgreens for less than a dollar (after standing in the cold for an hour waiting for the Book of Mormon lottery).

whole candy cane

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Flavor #23: Guava Ice Cream

23 Jan

After traveling through Asia, guavas (along with dragonfruit) are what I miss the most. The guavas abroad (especially in tropical areas) are large, crunch, sweet, and slightly sour. In fact, the de facto Tapei ice cream shop Snow King proudly proclaims one of its signature flavors: guava ice cream.

Growing up, my first guava was the pineapple guava. When my sister and I rode our bikes throughout our neighborhood on the weekend, we often stopped by these…guava bushes for a light snack. I can’t recall if these trees were off the road on someone’s yard or whether we romped through prickly weeds, but I can remember reaching for them without much effort, knowing that most people in the neighborhood were not as intrepid and perhaps too conservative (doesn’t it look unseemingly to pick guavas?) to eat these small pineapple guavas.

Fruits fruits

When I first traveled to Thailand, I was astounded. Green crunchy things (that to me weren’t as “plain” as apples). I fell in love. Whenever I travel to Southeast Asia, I always do a search for these things. I can’t wait until my next experience to show guavas my love.

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