Laura Sawicki, Pastry Chef at La Condesa, was kind enough to let us into her kitchen to show us the basics of one of Summer’s most classic and refreshing desserts: homemade ice cream made with Vital Farms eggs!
La Condesa’s Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream (Yield: About 1 QT)
Ingredients: 1 ¼ c. Milk, 1 ¾ c. Cream, ¾ c. Sugar, 1 Vanilla Bean (Pop the bean and scrape out the pulp), 1 Pinch Salt, 7 Vital Farms egg yolks, (Finish with a splash of bourbon if you like).
You will also need: A stainless steel bowl. A whisk. A wooden spoon or rubber spatula. A strainer. A cooking or candy thermometer. A large bowl or bin to make an ice bath. An ice cream machine.
1. Scald milk and cream with half the sugar. 2. Whisk egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl. When dairy starts to bubble, add remaining sugar to yolks and whisk! 3. Temper (add) a portion of the dairy into the yolks, whisking. Be careful not to scramble the egg yolks. 4. Return all ingredients to a saucepan on the stove, stirring with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Cook on low to 160 degrees. Strain. 5. Cool in an ice bath. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add a splash of vanilla extract and bourbon, if using. 6. Store in a refrigerator overnight. 7. Spin according to your ice cream machine’s instructions.
(Tip from Laura: Ice cream requires lots of straining, especially if you have an infusion competing with the base. You want your base to be as smooth as possible. Laura recommends getting creative with infusions: nuts, herbs, liquors, whatever strikes your fancy.)
La Condesa changes their standard menu every few months, but specials change everyday or every few days. Sawicki says it can be difficult to plan pastry specials for a large restaurant when the seasons in Central Texas are so short. “If this were a 25 seat restaurant, a totally locally sourced menu would be no problem, but we have 150 seats,” Sawicki said.
Sweet potatoes and pecans are available year-round but berries, herbs and certain fruits can be harder to come by. However, the restaurant supports many local vegetable farmers, orchards and local meat producers; the fruit pie is always made from locally sourced ingredients, and the cheesecake is made with local Pure Luck Farms goat cheese. Sawicki says she really likes how golden, yummy and rich the Vital Farms egg yolks are. “You can tell the chickens ate well,” she said.
The restaurant also has a very strict composting system in place, as well as a water filtration system and pressurized water taps on all faucets. Sawicki says she doesn’t produce any waste besides egg flats and milk cartons. (She uses about 6 gallons of Organic Daily Harvest Milk a day). “On an emotional level we are practicing what we preach and encouraging other restaurants to do the same. I haven’t worked in a restaurant that wasn’t environmentally conscious in 6 years,” she said. “I am totally floored that there is still a lack of education.”
Sawicki and her team of cooks work extremely hard to produce food of the highest quality at one of Austin’s best restaurants. (She arrives every morning at 6am and will leave at 6pm on a good day, though usually closer to 8 or 9pm). Sawicki, Executive Chef Rene Ortiz and their fellow cooks’ dedication has paid off; since opening in 2009, the restaurant was nominated for the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in the US in 2010, arguably one of the most respected awards in the culinary world.
A year later, the main room still crackles with color, massive art sculptures and modern light fixtures (take a look at the American Institute of Architects’ nominated décor here) and the chefs all seem relaxed and happy to be at work.
“What’s a better way to build community than through food?” Sawicki said.