Icy Adventures, Part 2
As promised earlier this week, here's the next chapter of the ice cream chronicles, Kim O'Donnel style.
I put on my boots, packed my compass and set out to acquire my very first ice cream maker. The concrete jungle is dangerous, so I put on a helmet, too (Actually, I was traveling on bike. Yes, I went to buy an ice cream maker on my bike, under the delusion that my would-be purchase would actually fit into one of my panier bags.)
I arrived at my destination, the big white shipyard that is Crate & Barrel (Although Bed, Bath & Beyond, Sur La Table and Linens 'n Things are equally good possibilities) and parked my rig. I swaggered inside, eyed my target - the Cuisinart ICE-20 - and decided she was mine. I felt a rush of excitement, imagining the possibilities. (Is this how the explorers felt when they discovered new land?)
Fifty bucks later, I was back at home base, unpacking the goods and dutifully placing the freezer bowl into the bowels of the freezer in preparation for my maiden voyage. Most machines on the market for home use are equipped similarly, with a separate Freon-powered bowl that must be frozen about 24 hours before you want to make ice cream.
After coffee the next morning, I embarked on making the custard (aka crème anglaise). Ice cream is actually a custard that is churned and frozen. It requires some combination of heavy cream and milk, a bunch of egg yolks and flavorings of your choice. The tricky part is cooking the highly sensitive custard, which can curdle if you're not careful. I asked my ice cream guru, Bill Addison, how to handle:
If you add the cream too quickly to the egg mixture, or cook the egg/cream combo at too high a temperature, you start to see discouraging bits of coddled egg floating in your custard.
Do two things to avoid this:
1) Temper the egg mixture by slowly, slowly adding splashes of hot cream to the eggs, stirring all the while, before you add the entire egg mixture into the cream.
2) Cook the custard on medium-low, stirring the whole time. Don't grow impatient. Zen out on this step. The rewards are worth it.
Finally, little bits of cooked egg solids are typical in the process. When the custard is properly thickened, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve before adding the final flavorings.
On cooking the custard to proper thickness: the "cook until it coats the back of a spoon" rule can be vague and misleading. The mixture often already coats the spoon before it's even cooked! You're looking for the mixture to surpass the texture of heavy cream. If you run a thumb over the mixture on the back of the spoon, the custard shouldn't run at all, and it should look thick. It should have body and keep its shape on the spoon. Then you know it's done.
For neophytes like me, Addison made a few recommendations: "Master the art of vanilla first. It covers all the important bases. Then you can move on to chocolate, if so inclined. Fruit can be tricky, because often there's an additional liquid component from the fruit's juice to consider."
And so vanilla it was. Let me tell you, though; this is high-test stuff, flavored with bourbon - "adult vanilla ice cream," as Addison put it.
The end result? It rendered two of us speechless.
Bill Addison's Vanilla-Bourbon Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups half-n-half
1 vanilla bean
7 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup bourbon
Place cream and half-n-half in a saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds into the cream mixture.
Add vanilla bean to the cream mixture and bring to just under a boil over medium heat. Remove the cream from the heat and let steep, covered, for 20 minutes.
Separate eggs. Combine the egg yolks with the sugar and salt in a mixture bowl, whisking until the mixture lightens. Slowly whisk in a small amount (approximately 1/4 cup) of hot cream to temper the egg mixture. Transfer the egg mixture into the saucepan with the cream and cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon without running.
Remove from the heat. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve. Add the vanilla extract and bourbon.
Chill completely and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
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