Working With What You Have: The Anti-Vanilla Ice Cream Brigade

EVENT: Sunday Afternoon Treat
DISH: Matzoh Crunch Ice Cream

Last week, we salivated over David Lebovitz’s creative ice cream concoctions in the LA Times. The dessert-cookbook writer, food columnist, chef, and blog author combated the world’s lack of creative interpretations of ice cream by offering up three surprising new flavors: carrot cake ice cream, buckwheat ice cream, and lemony frozen yogurt.

When we saw the LA Times‘s Daily Dish blog’s posting about this article, our hungry minds went into overdrive. Phoebe started thinking about double-chocolate chipotle. Cara wondered if you could freeze cardamom-flavored rice pudding into ice cream. We thought about mixing some of BGSK’s signature desserts—lotus blondies, carrot cookies, or baklava—into caramel, cinnamon, and honey bases, respectively. And on and on.

And then the weather reports began predicting the weekend arrival of spring, and all the decadent imaginings stopped being able to measure up to the real thing. Since neither Phoebe nor Cara’s small kitchens have cabinet or counter space for an ice cream maker, we decided to make a pilgrimage to Cara’s childhood kitchen, where the bowl for the Cuisinart ice cream maker had been sitting unused in the freezer for years. We brought the custard with us, as it had to chill overnight, and this efficiency caused the moment of truth to arrive really rapidly. We had to decide: what everyday ingredients from her mother’s pantry were we going to add to the ice cream to make it transcend, in a Lebovitzian manner, the everyday flavors?

custard churning, pre-add ins

The pre-Passover coverage on NPR, and a subsequent conversation with Cara’s mom about what treats could be expected from this year’s Seder—namely the promise of Uncle Michael & Aunt Cindy’s chocolate-covered matzoh—brought us to our solution. We transformed a few sheets of soon-to-be-leftover matzoh into candy by baking it with brown sugar and butter and covering it in semi-sweet chocolate. It turned out great: the matzoh held its crunch, and the butterscotch-y sweetness kept us digging into the (improvised) pint for more.

Of course as the custard was churning into ice cream, our food-focused minds kept on churning with more and more flavor ideas from items in our pantry yet to be reappropriated. We don’t want to give them away quite yet, so, until the next ice-cream pilgrimage…

taste test

From our kitchen, where homemade ice cream is not an everyday occasion, to yours,



Matzoh Crunch Ice Cream
Makes about a quart

This requires a couple gadgets: an ice cream maker, of course, and a candy thermometer. But it’s worth all the fussing, and truthfully much easier than it sounds.


2 cups heavy cream
1 cup low-fat milk
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups matzoh crunch, crumbled (see below)

Combine the heavy cream, milk, and agave nectar in a small saucepan. Stirring occasionally, cook it over low heat until it registers 175°F on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs and yolks with the honey and the sugar until the mixture has thickened and lightened, about 2 minutes with an electric mixer.

When the milk/cream reaches 175°F, slowly mix 1/2 cup of it into the eggs. Off the heat, pour the egg mixture slowly back into the saucepan, stirring constantly. Over very low heat, stir constantly until it reaches 180°F (it will have gone down below 175° when you added the egg).

Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and let come to room temperature (about 2 hours) before putting in the refrigerator. For best results, chill overnight in the refrigerator and for about half an hour in the freezer just before putting into the ice cream maker. Freeze in the ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions for 20-30 minutes. Mix in the matzo crunch bits about 5 minutes before the ice cream reaches desired consistency.

Matzoh Crunch

This is adapted from Arthur Schwartz’s recipe. Cara’s family has been making it for Passover seders for ages.


3-4 sheets matzoh
1 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 bag (about 1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cover a baking sheet with foil. Butter it well. Arrange the matzoh in one layer. Set aside

Combine the butter and brown sugar in a 4-cup microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until both butter and sugar are melted, then stir to combine. Continue to microwave for about 2 minutes as the mixture bubbles, removing to stir at 20-30 second intervals. Pour over the matzoh.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the butter-sugar has bubbled and hardened on the matzoh. Watch carefully so as not to burn.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the warm matzoh. After about 2 minutes they’ll have melted enough for you to spread them evenly across. Leave the chocolate to harden in the refrigerator for about an hour (if you’re putting it straight in the ice cream it just has to be hard enough for you to cut).

The extra candied matzoh makes an attractive garnish for the ice cream bowls, if there is any left after the churning and simultaneous snacking process.

digging in–lactose intolerance be damned!

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