this has nothing to do with ice cream

peanut butter cup ice cream | the merry gourmet

I had the rare opportunity this summer to look back on the last six years of my career as an oncologist and to reflect on where I started and where I’m headed. The experience was eye opening, motivating, and educational. It was also painful.

I work in academic medicine (some of you know this already), and in academics, the only way to be promoted up the professorial hierarchy is to prepare a promotion packet. The promotion packet is a compilation of every activity I’ve been involved in since I was hired and every accomplishment I’ve achieved along the way. I had to write it myself. This meant that I spent nearly an entire month, maybe a little longer, writing about myself, about all of the many things I’ve done and how great I am at everything – patient care, teaching, administration, and research. When I finally turned it in, my packet was around 50 pages in length, and over 15,000 words.

By the end of writing it, I was fairly sick of myself. You probably would too, if you read it.

It’s done, though. It’s in someone else’s hands. A committee or two or three will review my packet by at least ten other academic physicians, and later. The packet will make its way up the university ladder, all the way to the president’s desk. And one day, about a year from now, I’ll find out if I met all the criteria for promotion. I’ll find out if I represented myself in a good enough light to be deemed worthy.

As tedious as the process of preparing my promotion packet was, though, it made me think about my goals, both in my career (which really does seem less of a job and more of an innate calling) and in my life. While I was forced to document what I’d achieved over the past six years in my work, I began thinking of the path I’ve taken in life, and with this blog. I’ve been writing here for over four years now – the anniversary was in February, and I completely missed it.  Having this space has helped me grow on so many levels, but I’m still not quite sure what my ultimate goal with this is.

I think my goal is to just write. This is what I feel compelled to do. The writing – about food and life and family – is what gives me a sense of peace when I log off the computer each day, when I step away from Word to join my family.

I’m speaking about blogging this weekend, at the Food and Wine Conference in Orlando. I’ll be on a panel with three other food writers and bloggers – Maggie Battista, Lael Hazan, and Katie Workman – each of whom has been incredibly successful in her own unique path. Our panel is about balancing blogging and life and career. It’s something I know a little bit about.

This has nothing to do with ice cream, of course. And it really has nothing to do with peanut butter cup ice cream. But I want you to have the recipe, because it’s a good one. Consider it my gift to you, for sticking with me through thick and thin, through the drama of these last four-plus years. Thank you for reading my writing, even when I ramble and especially when I don’t.

peanut butter cup ice cream | the merry gourmet

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream

You may find a simpler recipe for homemade ice cream, but I swear, this one is so worth the effort. I prefer egg-based ice cream recipes, because I like the texture better than recipes that do not use egg yolks. I tend to make this a two- or three-day affair, though you can certainly do it in less time. I make the custard base one afternoon or evening, chill it overnight, then churn it the next day. After several hours (or another overnight chill), it’s ready to enjoy.


1-3/4 cups heavy cream
1-1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped miniature peanut butter cups (about 15 miniature cups)


Place a 9-inch-square metal baking pan in freezer. Combine heavy cream, milk, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, corn syrup, and salt in medium saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is steaming steadily and registers 175 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes [I use a Thermapen digital thermometer]. Remove saucepan from heat.

Meanwhile, while cream mixture heats, whisk yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in bowl until smooth. Slowly whisk 1 cup heated cream mixture into egg yolk mixture. Return entire mixture to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and registers 180 degrees, 7 to 14 minutes. Stir in vanilla and remove from heat. Using a fine mesh strainer, carefully strain custard into a large bowl and let cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or up to 24 hours).

Transfer custard to ice-cream machine and churn according to your machine’s instructions. When the ice cream is nearly frozen, about 5 minutes from the end, add in the chopped peanut butter cups. Ice cream will be soft serve consistency when it’s done. Scoop ice cream into the frozen baking pan and press plastic wrap on surface. Return to freezer until firm around edges, at least 1 hour. Transfer ice cream to airtight container, pressing firmly to remove any air pockets, and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

Adapted from this recipe from  Cook’s Illustrated, from July 1, 2011.

    Pin It

21 Responses to “sweets for the sweet: grandmother’s potato candy”

  1. 1
    LiztheChef — December 6, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

    Are you aware that when someone is reading your post(s) that a band shoots across, saying “recommended for you”? It really turns me off. Your blog is so popular that I thought others might share the feeling, which is why I bring it to your attention. Meaning the best, Liz

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — December 6th, 2011 @ 8:46 pm

      Try it now, Liz.

  2. 2
    SMITH BITES — December 6, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

    such wonderful memories MJ – am thrilled you are now the keeper of the recipes!!

  3. 3
    Leigh — December 6, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

    What a beautiful, touching post. I totally want to make some now.

  4. 4
    Macaroni Mama — December 6, 2011 @ 9:27 pm

    A wonderful post! I never, ever . . . ever believed that my 88 year old mother would be MY Care-Giver!. Grandmother is so proud of you, Merry Jennifer

  5. 5
    katie — December 6, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

    I’ve never heard of potato candy, but I have to say I’m intrigued! Your grandmother’s recipe is bringing me back. My grandmother had very similar cursive and very similar stained, worn pieces of paper with recipes on them. But most of all I’m blown away seeing the word “Oleo”! I haven’t heard that term used in soooo long! Another memory of my grandmother 🙂
    Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  6. 6
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — December 6, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

    I love the hand written recipe and the connection to your grandmother… though, it does feel a little bitter sweet. You, your mother, and your grandmother have been so strong this past year! Sending you hugs!

  7. 7
    jenn s. — December 6, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

    I have my late Great Aunt Jewel’s recipe for cream cheese poundcake and it is absolutely priceless. One glance at that stained, crumpled paper with the slanted cursive and I am transported back in time to her kitchen where I would help her roll out biscuits (eating dough until my belly was swollen and achy!) and mix up cake batter. She always let me lick the bowl. I make her cake frequently and think of her everytime the sweet, buttery smell of poundcake fills my home. I miss her, but I feel her with me when I cook.

  8. 8
    Paula — December 7, 2011 @ 12:16 am

    The potato candy looks delicious but the content of this entire post is so beautifully written. You have a gift with words and spinning them together to tell a story that draws your readers into, carefully savouring every word, wanting more and feeling a little disappointed when the post comes to an end, even though we have been fulfilled, inspired and uplifted.

  9. 9
    Kathryn — December 7, 2011 @ 3:54 am

    This was such a wonderful post, you describe the relationship between your parents and grandmother with such love and tenderness.

  10. 10
    Janis — December 7, 2011 @ 7:15 am

    I love this post. My grandma was my best friend. I have some of her recipes and they mean everything to me.

  11. 11
    Lucy — December 7, 2011 @ 7:17 am

    The stains make it the most prized of treasures – tried and true! Love the story behind this and I’ve always wanted to try this candy recipe. Wishing you the blessings of the holidays with your family!

  12. 12
    Mary Constant — December 7, 2011 @ 11:23 am

    What a unique candy! “Eat, drink and be Merry” Someone gave me some cocktail napkins that have “Eat, Drink , and…who’s Mary”

  13. 13
    Nicole — December 7, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

    I have never heard of potato candy before! I’ll have to try this one soon. Something about using family recipes that are worn and splattered is one of my absolute favorite ways to create in the kitchen.

  14. 14
    Efthimia — December 8, 2011 @ 1:57 am

    The power of grandmothers, whether in a hug or on an old recipe card, is trully remarkable. I lost both mine a few years ago, and I still see them stapling the family together to this day, their legacy being their love.

    And their cooking skills as well. 🙂

    I’ve never heard of potato candy but it sounds delicious, not to mention easiest candy ever. I’m definetely trying this for the holidays. Thank you so much for sharing and I hope everything turns out well.

  15. 15

    That’s the best gift to receive. When my grandmother had to move out of her home I was the one who got all her old recipe books and handwritten notes and I am go grateful for that gift.

  16. 16
    Jessica @ How Sweet — December 8, 2011 @ 8:19 pm

    Absolutely beautiful, heart-warming story. I have my grandmother’s recipes and have always eyed the one for potato candy but been too scared to try. Love that you did this.

  17. 17
    Marla — December 10, 2011 @ 8:59 am

    Such a sweet story of true family bonding and support.
    I have never heard of potato candy, but it sounds wonderful!

  18. 18
    Michelle Kreifels — December 21, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

    Very sweet story. I inherited all of my grandmothers photo albums. I miss the days when you actually held a stack of photos in your hand. I am really looking forward to trying this recipe. I have never heard of potato candy!

  19. 19
    Denise @ Creative Kitchen — December 22, 2011 @ 12:54 am

    Loved this!! Felt like I got to know you a little better. I, too love the stained old recipes. Merry Christmas!

  20. Pingback: Things to do with Mashed Potatoes – Table Talk

Leave a Comment