Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Ninth Annual Pumpkin Challenge

Western Washington, circa 2008.
We have some new items in the FAQ this year and a few changes in the rules.

What is the pumpkin challenge?
The Pumpkin Challenge is an annual quest to consume as many varieties of pumpkin edibles as humanly possible. Most years, the Pumpkin Challenge has taken place between September 15 to October 31. Last year, we started early. This year, we're starting late.

What are the rules?
Food items may not be doubled. Two slices of pumpkin cheesecake count as one item. The only way it could count for two different items is if the second item has a distinct enough difference of flavor that it warrants a different name AND the item comes from a different source than the first item (i.e. Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory and homemade pumpkin cheesecake). Pumpkin candles or pumpkin soap do not count unless you eat them.

What about beverages?
Yup, they're food. But see the above rule. TL;DR: Twenty pumpkin spice lattes only count as one item.

Does pumpkin spice count? Or does it have to actually contain pumpkin?
Ideally, the ingredients include actual pumpkin. But it all tastes good, so pumpkin spice counts!

What is the record?
During 2012’s Pumpkin Challenge, I consumed 52 different varieties of pumpkin. The previous record (2010) had been 40.

What are my chances of defeating you, Brad?
This year, they are pretty good. I don't think I've had anything pumpkin so far this month, whereas usually I've been eating as much as possible starting September 1. Your chances of beating my record, however, are slim unless you do a LOT of cooking.

Why does it stop in October? Isn’t pumpkin often a Thanksgiving staple?
Ideally, the meeting of mouths to pumpkin products would go on forever. But we most focus our efforts. The Pumpkin Challenge was created to encourage the same sort of crass commercialism extended to that Santa holiday. We want to encourage—through pestering and purchase—stores offering pumpkin foods at progressively earlier dates each year. To focus the Challenge to a time period that is the height of pumpkin consumption is both missing the mark and far too easy.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Brad's Perfect S'mores Ice Cream Recipe

From my Ben & Jerry's cookbook showing me the ropes, back when I first got started making ice cream, to my travels tasting the best ice creams in the country, I am a man indebted to his influences. When I took to the kitchen this time around, I took inspiration from two sources: the toasted marshmallow milkshake from NYC's Stand 4 and the liquid chocolate mix-in from Graeter's in Cincinnati (and beyond). These two components (toasted and melted!) are typically missing from other s'mores ice creams. In mine they work together to create the perfect frozen representation of the quintessential campout fare:

A toasted marshmallow and graham ice cream base, featuring a melted chocolate mix-in that halfway hardens while the ice cream churns. Top it off with more melted chocolate (still warm when mixed in!) and graham cracker dust. Enjoy!

Brad's Perfect S'mores Ice Cream

12 - 16 campfire-sized marshmallow
4 - 6 oz. graham crackers, divided...depending on how much you want to use as topping
½ cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup milk
¾ - 1¼ cup dark chocolate chips...depending on how chocolatey you like it
4 half graham crackers, optional

(1) Place marshmallows on foil and toast in a toaster oven* until golden on top and melty. (A lower temperature for longer is better than a high temperature for shorter.)

(2) While still in the packet, crush the graham crackers in packet with a hammer. Not too hard, or you'll burst the packet open.

(3) Put toasted marshmallows and 2 - 4 oz. of graham crackers in a food processor. (Reserve the rest of the crushed graham crackers for topping later.) Blend well. It should resemble a Rice Krispies® treat made out of Golden Grahams™.

(4) Add cream, sugar and milk to the food processor and blend. Between rounds of blending, scrap the sticky marshmallow mixture off of the blades and sides.

(5) Chill mix in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Then...

(6) Start up your ice cream maker. Pour in the mixture. My ice cream maker takes about 15-20 minutes to whip in a good amount of air. (If there isn't enough air, any leftover ice cream will freeze too densely and be rock hard.)

(7) While the mix churns in the ice cream maker, melt the chocolate chips. (They only need to be soft, not fully liquid. Small portions in the microwave works fine.) Add at least half of the melted chocolate chips into the churning ice cream. Reserve the rest for topping.

(8) When the ice cream is done churning, scoop into bowls and top with the reserved melted chocolate chips and graham cracker dust. If you like, put half a graham cracker on the bottom of the bowl, or on top for extra crunch.

* Use a toaster oven because, like a broiler, it will actually toast the marshmallows. A regular oven would just melt them. A microwave will cause them to inflate, which doesn't help with the recipe, but is great fun when you have two marshmallow Peeps® and want to make them joust with toothpicks.