I, like many geeks who spend a majority of their time on the computer or watching sci-fis, enjoyed the Fox series Firefly when it aired 6 years ago. I recently re-watched the whole series as well as the DVD continuation, Serenity. What does all this have to do with food? Well let me share that.
During one particular episode (The Message), River Tam (a mind reading genius) is attempting to consume a frozen dessert aptly called an Ice-Planet. It basically looked like a ball of ice cream dangling from a string on a stick. Here is a screenshot from the episode:
After several unsuccessful attempts to eat the swinging ball, she declares in a child-like way, “My food is problematic.” This quote quickly became an internet meme, showing up on tee-shirts, in online comics, and plastered all over blogs. So, if you are a fan of Firefly, or a fan of crazy desserts, I have something for you. Behold! An actual, edible, Ice-Planet!
I am going to now show you, step by step, how it is you can make these at home. They are a little messy, and you may need special bowls, and eating them takes time, but it can be done. If you have never seen the show, you will still find this project fun and just ignore all the Firefly references (or go rent the show to find out what I’m talking about!). Here is my basic blueprint for the project:
Step 1: Securing the Ingredients and Tools
To make 4 Ice-Planets you will need:
• 8 (2.5 in) craft sticks (popsicle sticks)
• 4 (20 in) pieces of string
• 4 dowel rods (notched towards end)
• 4 smallish (3 inch diameter) bowls with rounded bottoms
• ice cream
• ice cream scoop
• 2 people (1 person = problematic)
Step 2: Set-up (Freeze the bowls, tie the sticks, notch the rods)
First of all, take 2 of the small bowls and place them in the freezer. Since you are dealing with ice cream, any non-freezing surface will cause it to melt rapidly and cause the liquid ice cream to make it rather difficult to pack the Ice-Planets solid.
Also, because we are attempting to hang a pint of ice cream from a skinny string, there has to be some sort of internal support structure that can hold onto the surrounding ice cream. This structure is a simple plus sign made of short Popsicle/craft sticks tied at the middle with string. When tying, be sure to lay the sticks on a flat surface and have the long end of the string coming straight out of the center upwards.
Another issue will be the rods that the ice cream hangs from. Tying the string directly to the dowel could result in the tie sliding down the rod or falling off the end. To remedy that, simply cut a notch towards the top of the rod. Tie the end of the string to the rod and you have the skeletal structure of your planet. Good Job!
Step 3: Getting down and dirty (Ice-Planet Style)
After you have all the prep work done, have the stick structure handy (and a wet paper towel) and pull out the frozen bowls. With a second person, quickly fill the bowls (packing them down) with ice cream until they are slightly domed over the top of the bowl.
Now here is the tricky part. The support structure needs to be placed perpendicular to the Ice-Planet “seam” to add as much support as possible. Placing the “plus” parallel to the seam may cause structural instability and the Ice-Planet will be destroyed, and it won’t be the Alliance’s fault, it will be yours. So, have one person hold the structure perpendicular to the Ice-Planet seam and have the second person slowly bring the 2 Ice-Planet halves together around the sticks.
Press the bowls together until you have a nice tight seal. Liquid ice cream will ooze from the seam like molten lava, but thats ok. Quickly hand-off the Ice-Planet (still in the mold) to the non-ice cream covered individual so that they can wipe off the mold and stick it in the freezer while the other runs to the sink to hose off.
Step 4: The Waiting Game
Now you simply have to wait for the planet to re-freeze (which, luckily, won’t take billions of years). This is imperative to the whole process because if you don’t wait for it to refreeze you may have a collapsing planet on your hands and face, so be patient. You can make a second Ice-Planet while you wait or perhaps finish your model of Serenity, organize a shindig, knit or buy yourself Jayne’s Hat, play a game of Tall Card, or send Fox some nasty emails – your choice. After about 20 min, you can return to the freezer and prepare to be delighted.
Step 5: Releasing the Outer Planet
Take the planet to the sink and slowly pour warm water over the bowls. As you are doing so, gently rotate the bowls in opposite direction, like turning 2 knobs. Do that back and forth until one of the halves comes off. You may have to run more water over the second half because there may be a slight suction. Be prepared to just plop the planet into your hand because if you don’t the heaviness may surprise you and you will plop it in the sink. Not good. Once the molds have been removed, you can hand the stick to your partner while you clean up. Low and behold, you have an Ice-Planet!
“So, what’s so great about a gorram Ice-Planet?” you ask. Well I doubt you would put it that way, but let me tell you.
Not only do you get to see first hand what River was referring to when she called eating it “problematic” but you get to have a lot of fun in the process. You may think this dessert would be a drippy nightmare but it’s not. Jim and I made and ate 2 and we had only one lonely drip. Because the ice cream is not touching any surface, you get very little heat conduction. The Ice-Planet is only warmed by your face and mouth, not by a bowl, cone, or even spoon. Also, as the planet is eaten (slowly) because of the internal structure, it doesn’t fall apart. The re-freezing binds the melty seam together with a strong unbreakable bond. This is helpful when you are swinging the plant all over the place figuring out how to eat it.
What’s so great about this dessert, is that is it super fun to eat. There are several methods to consumption. You can try to bite the planet from the side (never getting much); lick the planet (which yields little, but is less messy); or attack from the southern pole (which is most effective because the gravity of Earth-that-is is helping the process). Here Jim shows us these 3 methods.
Because the episode didn’t show the booth that River received the Ice-Planet from, how do we know that she didn’t order a St. Albans Ice-Planet? Maybe there is a whole line of Planet themed desserts. Well I have come up with a mini menu that you can use to create the Ice-Planet of your choice:
St. Albans- St. Albans’ icy conditions leave this Ice-Planet out in the cold! Plain white vanilla ice cream create this wintery climate. I’m sure Tracey would have loved it.
Persephone- This strawberry planet would surely capture the eye of Kaylee! Especially when the captain takes her to special shindigs where she can feast on strawberries all night!
Hera- This Rocky Road flavored planet is fitting for the surviving Browncoats of the Battle of Serenity. The war may be over for some, but it still rages in the hearts of the remaining Independents who face the long rocky road ahead. Hopefully this tasty planet can cheer up Mal and Zoe, if only for a moment.
Higgins’ Moon- This icy treat is made with real chocolate Canton “Mud”. This dessert is so good it has been endorsed by the Hero of Canton himself, Jayne Cobb!
Sihnon- This deep red seductive black cherry planet is home to Inara Serra. Take a bite into the world of this beautiful deep-space companion and you will come back for more. I promise you will not be disappointed.
Miranda- This exciting planet is sure to please! First we begin with a placid vanilla planet. Nice and soothing…Then we douse it in brandy, set it on fire, and put it out with bright red Strawberry Sauce! It’s not a favorite among the alliance, but I’m sure you will love it!
Enjoy your Ice-Planets! Happy Cooking and long live the Browncoats!