Les Scourtins aux Olives

I’m definitely in the salty camp. Chips over cookies any day. Nuts before chocolate. Cheese plate instead of dessert. Salt reigns over sugar on my palate.

I also can’t resist a good salty-sweet combination. Salted caramel. Aged cheddar with apple pie. Prosciutto and melon. That, in part, is due to my upbringing on Cantonese cuisine where there are plenty of dishes with a good dose of sweetness to counterpoint salty, savoury flavours. At dim sum, we didn’t wait to eat our egg tarts for dessert. We ate them between bites of siu mai and chicken feet.

Saveur recently posted a list of 5 unsung pastries in NY. One of them piqued my savoury-sweet interest: a cured olive cookie from Abraço. Since I don’t have the good fortune of flying out to NY to sample them myself, I had to make them. I adapted this recipe for scourtins from 101 Cookbooks. I substituted about a 1/4 of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour and subbed about 1/4 of the icing sugar with granulated sugar for a more rustic cookie. I also rolled them extra thin for extra crispness and sprinkled them with panela and a wee bit of fine sea salt.

Les scourtins aux olives

Les scourtins aux olives

Salty, sweet, umami, crispy, crunchy and just a little chew. These are begging for nice rosé on the patio for happy hour. Maybe next weekend.

Pandan Coconut Ice Cream

 I’ve always liked ice cream but I didn’t fall in love with it until I started making it myself. After my friend moved and left an electric ice cream maker a few years back, we’ve been churning out favourites that give some of those artisan ice cream folks a run for their money.

Usually I’m inspired by juicy, ripe fruit like apricots and berries. Sometimes seasonal flavours like eggnog and chocolate peppermint call to me. Often I’m smitten with exotic spices like saffron and cardamom. And once in a while, a little voice, more specifically, our 11 year old’s voice, pipes in with a flavour suggestion like this pandan coconut ice cream.

I love the toasty aroma of pandan. Toasty is the best word I can find to describe it…although it resembles wide blades of grass, it only yields a mild herbal flavour. Once cut, the toasty pandan aroma fills the kitchen with a heady, nutty note and its warm fragrance wafts through the house as it steeps in the coconut milk. Don’t be alarmed by the amount of pandan. You want it to be fairly strong as its flavour dulls a bit with freezing. If you’re lucky, you can find fresh pandan in Asian markets, otherwise frozen ones work. Please, oh please, don’t bother with that awful artificial green pandan extract. Skip it altogether and make equally delicious coconut ice cream (find that recipe at the end of the post).

Pandan Coconut Ice Cream

2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 cup whipping cream
10-12 pandan leaves
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
generous pinch of salt

In a medium saucepan, combine milk, coconut milk and whipping cream.
Chop or snip pandan leaves into bits about 2 cm long and add to saucepan.
Heat until just below boiling, cover pan and remove from heat. Let steep for 1 hour.
Strain the pandan milk mixture and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. You’ll want every pale green drop of essence that you can get.
Return the milk mixture to the saucepan and add sugar and bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, whisk eggs with salt in a heatproof bowl.
Gradually whisk coconut mixture into eggs then return mixture to saucepan. Stir and heat gently until custard is thickened and coats the back of a spoon.
Strain and cool in ice bath. Refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours.
Churn in your ice cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm.

Makes 1 1/2 L ice cream

Coconut Ice Cream

Follow above, omitting pandan and any steps involving it. Just after churning, fold in about 1 cup macapuno (preserved young coconut). Freeze until firm.