“Skinny people can’t be trusted.” So read the sign above Chef Leland Atkinson at last month’s Falls Church Farmer’s Market Chef Series presentation.
Considering his tutorial recently, which included the making of homemade ice cream and other delectable desserts, it is an understandable belief for the Chef and Co-owner of Sinplicity, a Falls Church catering and ice cream making enterprise.
Before founding Sinplicity, Atkinson apprenticed with Omni Hotels in Atlanta. Later, he won the prestigious Julia Child award for his first cookbook, Cocina! A Hands on Guide to the Techniques of the Southwestern Kitchen.
Sinplicity was Atkinson’s dream become reality. The business moved to Falls Church about a year ago. Atkinson has been pleased with the new location.
“We run our catering business and make our ice creams in the basement of the BB&T building near Seven Corners. You can be anywhere in 15 to 20 minutes,” said Atkinson.
First up in the ice cream class was the foundation, Atkinson explained while whipping up his concoction for the audience, namely the Sinplicity Ice Cream Base. Once the base is prepared, it can then be used in many different recipes. It’s simply a matter of customizing the flavor.
The ice cream menu for the market’s presentation included Caramel Apple, Blue Ridge Strawberry-Mascarpone with Grand Marnier and “Bourboned” Butter Pecan with ingredients pulled from the shelves of surrounding vendors.
The Caramel Apple ice cream tasted like a cold and creamy version of a county fair caramel apple, minus the stick. It was like savoring a fresh baked apple pie, adorned for consumption with a swirl of thick caramel.
The creamy texture of the Blue Ridge strawberry-mascarpone with Grand Marnier ice cream was reminiscent of a rich Italian cheesecake, topped with the slight tartness of fresh picked strawberries and then mellowed with an underlying hint of sweet orange.
Lastly, the “Bourboned” Butter Pecan ice cream was more nutty than overpoweringly sweet. The pecan pieces tasted toasted and played off the buttery cream of their surroundings.
Not alone in the market’s make-shift kitchen, Atkinson was assisted by his wife and two daughters.
“Sarah Puddin’ Pop Atkinson, she’s the tall brunette, age 9, and Emily da Smurf Atkinson, is the shorter little blond chick, age 7,” he said.
The girls helped scoop ice cream and pass out samples to the audience while their father instructed onlookers.
Serving 500 samples, Atkinson received a lot of feedback. “If you can please persnickety people, you’ve done your job well,” he said.
Most people seemed pleased, wasting no time in finishing off every last bit of the tasty samples, full of compliments and questions.
Overall, Atkinson was equally pleased with the exhibition, admitting being a bit nervous at the beginning.
“I made them too complicated. It seemed like I brought my entire kitchen out to that little tent,” he said.
In the end, the masses were more than appeased.
“The crowd really enjoyed it and it was a great way to promote the market,” he said.
Atkinson said that he didn’t find ice cream, but ice cream found him. “I guess that I just fell in love with the process. Good ice creams are hard to make since it takes three days to find out if you’ve created something special,” he said.
For those who missed Chef Atkinson at the Farmer’s Market, do not despair. Sinplicity’s hand-crafted ice cream is sold in all Balducci’s stores and is also served in many of the area’s fine restaurants and hotels.
Sinplicity is also a regular vendor at the Falls Church market. “I really do believe that it’s the best farmer’s market in the D.C. area,” he said.
So stop by Atkinson’s booth at the Falls Church Farmer’s Market some Saturday morning and as the Sinplicity motto states, “Let the Sin begin.”
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Sinplicity Ice Cream Base
(Yield: One quart)
9 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 ounce (by weight) non-fat dry milk, about ¼ cup
Place egg yolks, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl. Whisk together briskly until light and creamy.
Combine milk, cream and dry milk in heavy medium saucepan and warm to a simmer over moderate heat. While whisking (or with the motor running on a stand mixer), pour hot milk/cream mixture into the egg/sugar mixture. Stir until well blended and return to the pot. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. The custard is done when it has thickened and leaves a path on the back of the spoon when a finger is drawn across. Strain into a bowl and allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to overnight.
Caramel Apple Ice Cream
(One recipe ice cream base, see above.)
1¼ cup apple butter purchased or see below
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Ground nutmeg to taste
½ cup caramel sauce (optional)
1 ounce Apple Jack (optional)
Blend all ingredients together and adjust seasonings to taste. Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.
4 pounds tart apples, such as Braeburn or Granny Smith
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Rinse apples in cool water and drain well. Core, peel and chop apples.
In an 8-quart pan, combine the apples and apple juice. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the apples are soft, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Press the apples through a food mill or process in a food processor. Return the apple pulp to the pan. Stir in the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Over medium-low heat, heat the mixture, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved. The heat to medium and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring frequently. Reduce until thick, stirring often, about 30 minutes. Watch for scorching as the butter thickens. Remove the pan from the heat and skim off any foam.
Butter will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. It can also be canned or frozen for up to 1 year.
Blue Ridge Dairy Strawberry-Mascarpone Ice Cream with Grand Marnier
(One recipe ice cream base, from above.)
12 ounces strawberries, sliced (about 15 medium berries)
½ cup sugar
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
1 cup mascarpone
1 ounce Grand Marnier or Triple Sec (optional) more or less to taste.
Blend the strawberries, sugar and salt in a blender or Cuisinart until completely smooth. (If you have lumps, strain the mixture). Blend the berries with the mascarpone. Blend in the ice cream base. If using, add Grand Marnier or Triple Sec to taste (don’t overdo it!)
Freeze in ice cream maker immediately according to manufacturer’s instructions. Enjoy immediately or transfer to sealed container and store for up to 6 months before eating.
“Bourboned” Butter Pecan Ice Cream
(One recipe ice cream base from above)
¼ cup bourbon-more to taste if eating right away
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 ¼ cup pecan pieces
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
Combine bourbon and brown sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 30 seconds or so and remove from heat. Chill before adding to ice cream base. Blend well. (If ice cream base is warm, you may add it now.) Chill for 4 hours to overnight.
Toast pecan pieces in a hot 350°F oven for 5 minutes or until toasted and fragrant. Place the hot nuts into a bowl with the butter and salt and stir until well blended and the butter is completely melted. When cool, transfer to a sealed container and freeze until needed.
Put liquid mix in ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. When ice cream is almost set, add frozen pecans and mix until well blended. Enjoy immediately or transfer to tightly sealed container until ready to eat (up to 6 months).
Peach Compote for Ice Cream
(Try this recipe with Grand Marnier, Peach Schnapps or Triple Sec too.)
4 large peaches (or 6 to 7 plums or nectarines)
½ cup Essencia (Orange Muscat Dessert Wine) or Late-Harvest Riesling
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Peel and slice peaches (it may not be necessary to peel the other stone fruits). Blend with other ingredients and let sit, chilled, for 1 hour before serving.
(Yield: about three dozen 6-inch-long cookies.)
1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 Tbs. brandy
Grated zest of 1 lemon (to yield about 1 Tbs.)
1/2 oz. (1 Tbs.) crystallized ginger, chopped
2 cups granulated sugar
15-3/4 oz. (3-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted until golden
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 Tbs. turbinado sugar (also sold as Sugar in the Raw in supermarkets)
In a small bowl, combine the currants, raisins, brandy, lemon zest, and ginger and let stand for 20 min. With an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, granulated sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients until just combined and the dough looks crumbly. Take care not to over mix. Add the fruit mixture and the pine nuts, mixing just until the dough comes together (bring the dough together with your hands if it’s a bit stiff). Let the dough rest for 15 to 30 min. before shaping.
Meanwhile, position oven racks in the middle and top of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Shape the dough and do the initial baking.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Cut the dough in half. Using as little flour as possible on the work surface, roll each half into a log that’s 16 inches long and 2 inches wide, working out the air pockets as you go. (If you’re working ahead, wrap the logs in plastic and refrigerate them overnight). Transfer the logs to the baking sheet, setting them about 3 inches apart and patting the sides to smooth and straighten. Brush the tops and sides with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake on the middle rack until golden brown and firm in the center, 30 to 35 min., rotating the sheet to ensure even baking. Set the sheet on a rack until the logs are cool enough to handle and so the dough won’t compress when you cut it, about 30 min. Slice the baked loaf and bake a second time.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment. With a serrated knife, saw the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices, cutting on the diagonal so each slice is about 6 inches long. Lay the slices flat on the baking sheets. Bake about 15 min., rotating the sheets and switching their positions as needed for even baking. Turn the biscotti over. Bake until both sides are a rich golden brown, another 10 to 15 min. Set the baking sheets on racks, letting the cookies cool and crisp completely on the sheets.
(Baking Tip: If stored airtight, the biscotti will keep for about two weeks.)