I am *so* excited to announce that registration is now open for my Croatia styling, photography, and truffle foraging workshop. Yes, you read that correctly, there will be a guided excursion into the Croatian forest for hands-on truffle foraging (and eventual truffle eating). I’ll be hosting along with Carey as a part of our First We Eat travel-based workshop series. We’ll spend our days in a restored stone farmhouse perched a top a hill overlooking the Mirna river valley, right in the middle of Istrian wine and truffle country (you can see photos of the location on the workshop registration page). The home is complete with a large stone hearth in the kitchen, where we’ll be making many a wood fire-roasted meal, and is equipped with all the modern luxuries, including a large tranquil swimming pool where we’ll lay back in the evenings and take in the incredible surroundings. In addition to the truffle foraging, we’ll also be going on a trip to a neighboring farmhouse to view the beekeeping process. There will also be an afternoon picnic outing to the ancient town of Porec, Croatia’s answer to Venice, as well as a trip to the nearby Hum, a medieval stone village known as the smallest town in the world. I’d love nothing more than to have you join me in this incredible experience, you can read more details about the event and register at the link below, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out.
Now, I know most of you are scratching your heads about the toasted oak part. Did I forage a tree branch? Did I chop up a log of some sort? Did I buy oak bark chips from a landscaping store? The short answer is no. No to all of those. But what I did do was buy food-safe oak chips from a local market, the kind that home brewers like to use for adding an oaky flavor to homemade wine without having to spend hundreds of dollars on actual oak barrels. You can find them at almost any home brewing supply store or pick from a wide selection online. Some of them come pre-toasted and some of them are raw. The ones I purchased were raw and I was able to toast them at home in my oven really easily by wrapping each oak chunk in tin foil and then roasting them in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours. You can roast them for up to 4 hours for maximum toastiness, but you don’t want to let them char otherwise you’ll get a burnt off-flavor from them. And fyi, my oak pieces came in big chunks, if you have tiny pieces you might want to bundle them together in tin foil rather than trying to individually wrap each one. And if you’re working with chips a lot smaller than those featured in the photos here, you won’t need to steep them as long since they will create more surface area for the cream to infuse with.
After the toasting, I steeped the oak in a mixture of milk, cream, and vanilla. And while they were all cozying up together, I roasted the strawberries to soften them up and caramelize them very lightly. Then I strained out the oak chunks, and pureed together the cream mixture with the roasted strawberries and some raw honey before dumping the mixture into my ice cream machine. After a few hours of freezing, I was able to try the first bite of my frozen summery concoction. And my word. It’s hard to describe how well the flavors go together, but the sweet, fruity, and lightly acidic strawberries cut through the toasty, warm oak flavor and deliver a summery freshness in every bite , while the oak leaves a smokey campfire-like aftertaste, like the best kind of campfire strawberry cobbler. And the honey and vanilla provide the perfect amount of sweetness to the creamy mixture. It’s a new summer favorite at the Kosmas Flores household, and I can guarantee that if you give it a whirl it will be yours, too!
STRAWBERRY VANILLA TOASTED OAK ICE CREAM
- 1 lb food safe oak chips untoasted (if you use toasted ones skip the toasting steps)
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean split down the middle
- 20 medium-sized strawberries cut in half
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap the oak pieces in tin foil and then toast in the center rack of the oven for 2 hours. Remove the oak from the tin foil and set aside. Leave the oven on for later use.
- Use a butter knife to scrape the insides of the vanilla bean pod into the cream, reserving the empty husk.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the vanilla/cream mixture, milk, oak chips, and vanilla bean husk over medium low heat, covered, until the creamy mixture comes to a low boil, stirring every few minutes. Remove the pot from heat and allow the mixture to continue to infuse off heat, covered, for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, evenly spread out the strawberry halves, seed side down, on a lipped baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, or until softened slightly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
- Strain the oak and vanilla bean husk out of the creamy mixture, reserving the creamy liquid and discarding the solids. Empty the liquid into a blender along with the roasted strawberries, honey, and vanilla extract. Blend until smooth, then refrigerate the mixture until thoroughly chilled, about 4 hours.
- Pulse the mixture in the blender one more time post-refrigeration to mix up any vanilla sediment that has settled to the bottom. Empty the mixture into an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions (I churn mine for about 20 to 25 minutes) before emptying it into an airtight freezer-safe container. Seal and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.