Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spice Cream

I made apple crisp recently, and while it was delicious, I posted a recipe for such a thing last year and didn’t think it would be necessary to do so again. In fact, the one I made was pretty much the same as this one, but without the cranberries and with less sugar (to make up for the fact that just plain apples are nowhere near as sour as cranberries.) I could, however, write about the delicious ice cream I made to go with the apple crisp. I think I’ll do that.

Plain ol’ vanilla ice cream is great with warm apple crisp, or any fruit crisp for that matter, but I thought I’d try to come up with something even more complimentary to that cozy cinnamon-apple comfort food. I would, quite literally, spice it up.

I steeped an entire array of my favorite warm and comforting spices, most of them in their whole form, in the milk and cream mixture for my ice cream. I really think the whole spices are necessary in this, since they have a fresher flavor, but also they can be removed after giving up some of their essence. Ground spices may work, but they might make the custard gritty or even a little bitter, since they would be almost impossible to filter out. Two exceptions are the ground ginger (although perhaps you could steep crystallized ginger instead, I didn’t think of that) and the nutmeg, which I ground off the “nut” with a Microplane grater as I added it with the other spices.

Another exception may be the vanilla bean I used. Since I was steeping anyway, I thought I might as well take advantage of its rich floral qualities and throw one in. (Actually, since the one I used was kind old and dry, I ended up crumbling it in.) You could probably use vanilla extract, which is more economical and convenient. Just add it after the custard is cooked instead of with the spices or the flavor is likely to float away as you heat it.

I was really, really pleased with the way this ice cream turned out. I was confident about the custard base itself, since I used the same recipe and method I usually do, but the spice additions were a bit of an experiment. It turned out pleasantly infused with all of the flavors: a little bit chai spice, a little bit pumpkin spice, and not so much of anything that it overwhelmed my apple crisp. Instead, it complimented it as I had hoped, a cold contrast with the warm dessert that melted and dribbled along the edges of the bowl and puddled in the nooks and crannies between the sweet-tart baked apples and crunchy walnut-oat topping. I also think it would go well with other fall desserts or more plain cakes and cookies, but my attention is lingering too much on the apple crisp, and I can’t think very far beyond that right now.

Ginger Spice Ice Cream
Based on recipes in Ben and Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book

This is very good with apple crisp.

2 cups (500 ml) heavy whipping cream
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
6 –inch (about 15 cm) cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods, crushed
4 whole cloves
¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) ground ginger
¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) freshly ground nutmeg
1 whole star anise
½ vanilla bean (or ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) vanilla extract)
2 large eggs
½ cup (3 ½ ounces or about 100 g) white granulated sugar
¼ cup (1 7/8 ounces or about 53 g) packed brown sugar

1. Pour the cream and milk into a medium saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and star anise. If using the vanilla bean, slit it in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and add them to the cream mixture. Add the scraped bean as well.

2. Heat the cream mixture over medium heat until just beginning to boil. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in the white sugar and beat until the mixture is pale and thick. Add the brown sugar and whisk until well combined, being sure to break up any lumps of brown sugar.

4. Strain the cream mixture into the egg mixture. Discard the solids. (You can save the vanilla pod to rinse and dry for making vanilla sugar.) Whisk together to combine well.

5. Pour the mixture into a clean saucepan. Heat over low to medium-low heat, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 160 F (about 72 C). (Use an instant-read or candy thermometer to determine this.) Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the vanilla extract, if using. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or until completely chilled. (I often set it in the freezer to speed the process and get the mixture even colder than the refrigerator can.)

6. Pour the cooled mixture into the freezing canister of an ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze until of desired firmness.

Makes 1 generous quart (1 liter).

Another ice cream recipe: Rich Choclate Ice Cream

One year ago: Cabbage Slaw with Spicy Peanut Dressing

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