Cookbook Review: Do You Really Need Bi-Rite Market's Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones?
It happens every year about this time. Those malted milk-chocolate chip ice cream (p. 82) and blood orange sorbet (p. 162) recipes start appearing in the latest ice cream cookbooks. This year, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, to be released in two weeks, starts us down that rocky road to what we hope will be ice cream salvation by summer.
It's a publishing category that is anything but frozen, as there seems to be an open casting call for whatever cherry-almond (p.117) and Meyer lemon (p.156) sweet cream versions the latest pastry chef or ice cream parlor owner has envisioned (here, Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco; the ice cream book is a follow-up to the grocer's Eat Good Food book published last year). Should you be interested in auditioning your best salted caramel recipe (p. 61) for future hardcover consideration, keep in mind that using locally-sourced ingredients, all the way down to your milk, is a must in ice cream cookbooks today, being "the most Yelp-about business in American," per the press release, probably had something to do with that publishing deal.
But we digress. The real homemade sugar cone question (p. 46) in an over-published category like ice cream is whether this book will be settling into our shelves next to Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams and friends.
Yes, as a matter of fact, it will, though less for the ice cream recipes themselves, much as a scoop of that almond-fudge ripple (p. 121) sounds pretty fantastic right about now. It's the thought of piling that cherry almond ice cream into a chocolate shortbread pie crust to make an ice cream pie that keeps us flipping back through the pages. The ice cream pie inspiration, in essence (And who doesn't like a great ice cream pie?).
To get there, the book is not organized in the typical straightforward ice cream arrangement: Recipes for all things churned in the first few chapters, those genoise cakes and fudge sauces that elevate that scoop from casual snack to plated dessert status as a postscript chapter. Instead, here those ice cream cake building blocks are incorporated among the ice cream recipes -- a seemingly minor point that has a lasting almond toffee (p. 68) impact. The chapters are organized by flavors like "Chocolate" and "Berries." So that chocolate midnight cake, for instance, which the creamery uses as the base for both their plain and ice cream cakes, is nestled between their recipes for chocolate chip cookies and dark chocolate cookies, all of which can be eaten on their own, crushed up as an ice cream topping, or turned into an ice cream cake or sandwich.
That's not to say the recipes, like the salted caramel ice cream the creamy is famous for, aren't solid. And sure, there is some creative ice cream flavor thinking going on in this book as well: A peach leaf ice cream inspired by a Chez Panisse recipe promises to approximate a bitter almond flavor, an orange ice cream relies on green cardamom pods for flavor inspiration. It's more that this book is refreshingly free of candied bacon ice creams and their palate shock value-fueled brethren that we've seen so much of in the pastry world recently (and for that, Bi-Rite, we can't thank you enough).
Instead, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones is more about those scoops of buttermilk ice cream (p. 37) piled high on top of fruit pies one weekend, appreciated for its unadorned simplicity another. It is about the day, or so we can daydream on weekdays, when you crumble that cinnamon-laced American baking staple that you've made dozens of times -- snickerdoodles (p. 195) -- into a cinnamon-speckled ice cream base to create Bi-Rite's frozen riff on ricanelas, a cinnamon-y Mexican cookie. And it becomes something new, something different, something fantastic. No candied pork products or sugary, sensationalized corporate cereal additions required. Just two similar, and quite simple, homemade cookies with very different backgrounds. United by ice cream.
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