Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Priceless



A recent post by one of my blogging friends, Caitlin, got me thinking. She was wondering about what gets people into blogging and how they find their own blogging "voice." And my friend Nancy also posted about some of her observations from her past year of blogging. As I was thinking about both of these, I realized something. Yeah, some people think it's weird that I take pictures of food that I make and write about it. And like Nancy mentioned in her post, I'm sure they also wonder about the fact that I "have to" bake things and then I give them away. But even before I started the whole blogging thing, people were sometimes amazed at the things that I made from scratch. And I get that even more now, what with making all my own bread and other things. So I'm curious--what got all of you into baking and cooking all the things that you eat?



For some people, it's because they want to know what goes into the food they eat. For some, it's just the challenge. For others, it's a way to save money. And for a lot of people, me included, it's all these things (and probably others). While it's not my primary motivation, the saving money is a nice side benefit. Sure, I'd bet I spend a lot more on groceries every week than a lot of people I know. Or do I? I like to buy quality ingredients, but maybe they're not always more expensive than ready-made food or stuff from a box. And because I cook and bake a lot, I pretty much always take leftovers for lunch. We seldom eat out, except sometimes on special occasions.

I really started thinking about the whole cost thing as I was buying the ingredients for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. Lynne of Cafe Lynnylu picked Vanilla Ice Cream for us to make this week. Sure, it's fun to make your own ice cream, but is it really cost-effective? Now I knew this recipe was coming, since we get the whole month's recipes at once. So I started thinking ahead about what I would need. A few weeks ago, I needed vanilla beans for another ice cream recipe. Two beans set me back $7.69. (ouch!) And that was the best price I could find locally. Knowing that I wanted to experiment more with vanilla, I knew I had to find a less expensive way to buy vanilla beans. I put out a request for ideas on Twitter, and Clara came to my rescue. She recommended The Organic Vanilla Bean Company. Much more reasonable than my local store. I ordered a sampler of 20 beans, 10 each Tahitian and Bourbon. $15 including shipping, so the cost works out to $0.75 per vanilla bean. And quick--I ordered Saturday and had them Thursday.

I don't often break it down precisely, but here's the tab for my ice cream making this weekend:

organic cream - 1 pint - $2.79
whole milk - 2 cups - $0.44
eggs - 6 - $0.95 (plus I have the whites left over, since I only used the yolks)
sugar - ~5oz - $0.14
vanilla bean - 1 - $0.75 (plus I'm using the pod to make vanilla sugar)

total - $5.07 for about 5 cups of ice cream, which works out to about $2 per pint

When you consider that you can buy a half-gallon of your average ice cream for about $5, that seems a bit high. But really, what we made would be more accurately compared to a premium brand like Ben & Jerry's or Haagen Dazs. And those run about $3 a pint. So really, not bad! And knowing exactly what goes into your ice cream and being able to customize it if you want is definitely priceless. =)


As for the actual making of the ice cream, I did tweak things slightly. I decided to try one of the Tahitian vanilla beans, since I don't think I'd tried one before. After splitting the vanilla bean and scraping out the seeds, I added the seeds to the sugar called for in the recipe. I rubbed them into the sugar so they would be more evenly dispersed. (Thanks to Wendy for the idea!) I put the bean itself into the cream and milk and heated the mixture in a double boiler. Meanwhile, I whisked my newly made vanilla sugar into the egg yolks. When the cream mixture was hot, I tempered it into the yolk mixture, then returned the whole thing to the double boiler. I also added a pinch of kosher salt. I heated the custard to about 175 degrees F, at which point it coated the back of a spoon. I let the mixture cool off somewhat, then put it into a container to chill in the fridge overnight. I actually left the vanilla bean in the custard the whole time. The next morning, I removed the vanilla bean and poured the custard into my ice cream maker to churn. It yielded a bit more than the quart that the recipe says (about 5 cups). I rinsed off the vanilla bean, let it dry overnight, and added it to my container of vanilla sugar (which will now be a mix of Tahitian and Bourbon).


The verdict? Wow. I love the flavor of the Tahitian vanilla. The Bourbon variety is what I'm used to, and I like it, but this was really good. I can see why the Tahitian ones are described as being more floral. Absolutely delicious. All my taste-testers seemed to agree. Brianna and Gillian enjoyed eating their ice cream in their "animal bowls." Awhile back I found a couple of really cute bowls at Sur la Table. I think they're intended to be rice bowls, but they were really cute and I couldn't pass them up. As soon as I saw the monkey one, I knew I had to buy it for Gillian (who loves all things monkey). I also have a pink bunny one for Brianna. They make great dessert bowls.

For this week's recipe, head over to Lynne's blog. And be sure to check out the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll--I'm sure there are lots of great variations on this week's recipe.



25 comments:

  1. I liked your price breakdown...good analysis. My four year old son is begging for a monkey bowl now! So cute.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the tip on ordering vanilla beans. I got the sampler pack too.
    This seems like the recipe that everyone loved!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love your bowl too! Great presentation.

    Ulrike @ K├╝chenlatein

    ReplyDelete
  4. You know, you are correct regarding the comparison of homemade ice cream vs. premium (i.e. Ben and Jerry's). And it's not just the price comparison, I agree that it's a quality issue, too.

    And we hardly ever eat out as well, because the foods always better at home!

    ReplyDelete
  5. This was wow! wasn't it?

    I make things from scratch purely for monetary purposes....it is cheaper that way...and I love to do it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I totally just ordered some vanilla beans. Great, great, great post. I started blogging because I wanted to join TWD, but from it, I actually continue for so many reasons- because of the challenge, because of the desire to keep learning, because of the satisfaction that comes from preparing things from home, without addition garbage that is in so many of the things you buy in the store (I am pretty proud to say that I only stick to the outer aisles of the store whenever I shop)!, but most importantly, because I meet other fabulous members of the blogging community who I consider my friends, although I may have never met any of you personally!

    ReplyDelete
  7. YUM! I'm gonna have to try that company out - thanks! :) Your ice cream looks lovely!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great post!! Your ice cream looks wonderful and I'm glad it was a hit with the girls. I prefer Tahitian vanilla. I'm glad you liked it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. what a lovely post! i love how you discuss your reasons for blogging, and i love how you compare the cost of making premium foods yourself rather than buying them. it *is* cheaper, isn't it? and so much more satisfying.

    love the cute bowls too:)

    ReplyDelete
  10. it is interesting how it is cheaper to buy some things ready made rather than make your own - I think sewing is like that too

    ReplyDelete
  11. for me, I guess it's more of the satisfaction derieved from the process of eating it. like bread, home-baked bread tastes just soo much better than store bought; cause you know you made it of course. haha. sweet labor.

    Anyway, the icecream looks gorgeous. Good investment too!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Love the bowls!! I've been meaning to order some vanilla beans, so thanks for that link. I have yet to work with the bean itself.

    I agree with the comparison of this quality ice cream to the premium, store bought brands.

    I have always loved baking and cooking. Ever since Christian was born, I've gotten a lot more serious about eating better meals on a regular basis. And Marc is so good about trying new things. I just love being in the kitchen (most days!) And I love taking care of my family like that. Nothing makes me feel better than when I put something on the table that I have made from scratch. Good stuff!

    Great post, Di!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I ordered some vanilla beans too! Thanks so much for the link! :)
    I started blogging because I just loved photography. I actually posted a lot of pics of food (and other things too!) to Flickr long before I started blogging and then a blog just seemed like the next logical step. It's not always easy finding the time and inspiration though, it's a lot of work.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I loved this post! I have always cooked/baked some, but when I moved in with my boyfriend last year I started doing a lot more of both since I finally had my own kitchen (years of roommates). I am really happy that I've cut out most pre-packaged food and that we go out to eat a lot less. I feel like I spend a lot on groceries too, but I agree that it's worth it for quality ingredients. And thank you for the link to the vanilla beans--yay!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Love this post, Di! My post this week is a summary of my TWD year, so we are continuing on the same page! And I placed my vanilla bean across my ice cream, too, but I didn't have an adorable bowl like you do! Glad to hear the comparison of costs and also vanilla types. I haven't cracked open my new beans yet.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wonderful post! Thanks for the vanilla bean link. I use vanilla paste because it is less expensive and easy to use...but I will get some beans too! And your ice cream looks so much better than Ben & Jerry! :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thanks for the tip on the cheap vanilla beans -- they are crazily expensive in stores!

    ReplyDelete
  18. So true! So true. You and Nancy both hit it right on the bean (vanilla!!). I started baking 'for real' when I started with TWD. Until then it was strictly box mixes. Now I am sad at all the great baking I missed for many years.

    Great post. Great looking ice cream.

    i have got to get me some beans!!!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Yeah, I think it was the challenge + wanting to broaden my horizons that brought it all on, but it's the people (aawwww) who keep me coming back :) Lovely post, and lovely ice cream.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Mmm, the ice cream looks wonderful, and I love the bowls!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I love how you broke down the cost of this ice cream! I often wonder if all the cooking I do saves us money, and I am pretty sure it doesn't, just because I'm not a very efficient shopper. But you've convinced me that maybe there is hope for me yet! The vanilla looks divine. I am definitely going to have to order from that company. I don't think I've ever tried tahitian vanilla! Love the animal bowls!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thank you for breaking down the cost. As for the blogging, all the reasons that you gave. Primarily, I love the challenge, and I love feeding others. I give away most of what I make!

    ReplyDelete
  23. So much information over here with this post, and I loved it all. Very fun to see the price breakdown. I also love research, so the whole vanilla bean thing was fascinating and I am ordering today...I kept wondering if it was worth it, so now I think it is. Your ice cream looks beautiful, as does all your food all the time, but I have to say, my favorite thing with the monkey bowl...LOL. When I was little I didn't carry around dolls or things, I carried around a stuffed monkey who I named Mr. JeeBee when I was about two. I haven't thought of JeeBee in quite sometime, so it was fun to see the bowl. Great post...lots of fun for your readers!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Great idea using your homemade vanilla sugar. Your ice cream looks wonderful. Thanks for making the ice cream with me.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Ohhhhoohhhh! I love that monkey bowl!!! ...and ho! yes... the luscious vanilla ice cream too!

    ReplyDelete