Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ice Cream Four Ways

While I love homemade ice cream, I can never force myself to make a recipe that calls for 6 egg yolks, as so many of them do. It just seems extreme to me. We often have homemade ice cream at family celebrations and it is nearly always accompanying something else, so it doesn't make sense to have the ice cream alone be extra rich.

What follows is my go-to ice cream recipe for non-fruity applications. I found it on Chowhound years ago and someone said that it was the Quilted Giraffe cinnamon ice cream recipe. That means nothing to me, but it might ring a bell for someone else.

It's been so long since I copied the recipe from CH that I don't know if I messed with the cinnamon version much or not. I'm suspecting I did because the "heat the half and half to 175 degrees" has Cook's Illustrated written all over it.

I use the basic concept (custard, simple syrup, whipped cream) as the foundation for several different flavors: vanilla/toffee vanilla, coconut, coffee and, of course, cinnamon. While there is only one egg yolk in the recipe, I still find it luxurious in the mouth and not too icy. We rarely have leftovers, so the texture is at its peak when we eat it. But even a leftovers are amazingly silky. Two or three days after churning, I detect miniscule ice crystals, and yet I am still totally satisfied with the smoothness of this ice cream. I think this must be because of whipping the cream before churning. This strikes me as genius--you start out churning ahead of the game. I wonder if you might end up with chunks of butter in your ice cream if you over-whip the cream, so be sure not to do more than soft peaks.

I am considering some streamlining of the recipe (for example, why is the simple syrup necessary? Wouldn't the sugar dissolve in the half and half?), but am presenting it here in the form that I know works.

My innovation this time is that I decided to see what would happen if I used coconut sugar (also called palm sugar) instead of my usual evaporated cane juice. Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar and we've got a family member who is being careful about such things right now. "Blonde" coconut sugar looks much like light brown sugar and I thought that the combination with vanilla bean would be nice, as the plan is to use the ice cream alongside nectarine cobbler. I used the same amount of coconut sugar as I would evaporated cane juice. This turned out to be exactly right. The custard looks and tastes like toffee, as did the finished ice cream. Two days later it had even taken on some coffee notes, though I don't know why. The vanilla flavor is very subtle so you might wish to add some vanilla extract, as well.

INGREDIENTS (for any version)
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1 egg yolk
2 c. half and half (or try whole milk mixed with some cream or by itself)
1 1/2 c. heavy cream

Cinnamon-- 1 cinnamon stick or 1 tsp ground cinnamon; 3/4 tsp vanilla
Coffee--3/4 c. whole coffee beans
Coconut-- 1 to 1 1/2 c. shredded unsweetened coconut (ideally the big flakes), 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice (optional)
Vanilla/Toffee vanilla--1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise and seeds scraped out and added; for toffee vanilla, use coconut sugar or half white sugar (evap cane juice) half light brown sugar instead of all evaporated cane juice, 3/4 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Put the half and half in the top of a double boiler. Heat half and half to 175 degrees F. For some reason today this took FOREVER, so I finished with a few bursts in the microwave. The only reason you do this part in the double boiler is that it saves you washing a pan because you'll need it for the egg part
  2. Adjust heat to keep the mixture warm. Add the cinnamon stick, coffee beans, coconut flakes or vanilla bean to the warm half and half and let steep, covered, for at least 20 min
  3. Strain the half and half and discard the solid bits. If necessary, top up the dairy to be 2 1/4 c. (the coconut flakes, in particular, absorb a lot of liquid)
  4. Return the half and half to the double boiler and turn up heat to get it back near 175 (something about milk protein behavior is why the 175 degrees is significant but I haven't tested it myself)
  5. Beat the egg yolk well in a small bowl. Beat in some of the hot half and half mixture, then add that to the rest of the half and half in the double boiler. Cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, 4-5 minutes
  6. While custard is cooking, combine water and sugar (and ground cinnamon, if using) in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved
  7. Remove custard from heat and stir in sugar syrup.
  8. Cool mixture by setting the bowl in an ice bath then stir in vanilla extract or lime juice, if using
  9. While mixture is cooling, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Fold into cooled custard
  10. Chill mixture well (overnight is okay) and then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the instructions

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