I have only made ice cream once and it ended up being more of a hassle than I anticipated. Not the actual making of the ice cream, but what was required of me for the next several weeks after dinner each night. It was our first Thanksgiving back in Denver and, coincidentally, my birthday. Being my favorite holiday, and having many family members arriving to share it in our old/new home, we planned a pretty awesome meal. Beginning with sweet potato gnocchi with brown butter sage sauce and ending with pumpkin ice cream topped with spiced, candied nuts and bruléed marshmallows.
Everything turned out wonderfully and the ice cream was particularly good. A custard base with pumpkin spice just slightly melted on the edges from the industrial sized torch I used to slightly burn the marshmallow fluff. The spicy, crunchy nuts just cut through all that sweetness. I was very pleased. Until the next night.
Before the rest of us could even finish our dinner, my dad got a devilish, little kid grin and asked, “what’s for dessert?” I told him I had some ice cream left, but no more fluff. He smacked the table and said “ok!” and I brought him a bowl. Before he’d even taste it, he looked up at me and casually suggested I get the torch. “But there are no marshmallows, dad.” “So, it will just melt it a bit.” Sighing dramatically (I still hadn’t finished MY dinner) I got up and fetched the torch and he set about melting the top of his ice cream. I thought it was worth it after seeing his pure delight.
But then the next night came. And the next. Once we ran out of pumpkin ice cream I was sent to the store for vanilla and more fluff. And this ritual might have continued had my dad not almost burned down the house. Making rounds to turn off lights and get ready for bed, I heard a slight noise in the dining room. As I walked into the dark room I saw a tiny blue flame at the end of the torch. In some late night, snacking frenzy, my dad had failed to completely turn off the torch. WIth a dog and two cats in the house, and fire being my NUMBER ONE FEAR, I freaked out. I hid the torch. I played dumb despite my dad’s tantrums. And finally, one day, it was forgotten.
I have not made ice cream since. And had not thought much about it. But then the Food52 contest was announced and it was Your Best Ice Cream. I was not going to enter, but of course my imagination got the best of me. I first decided to make a Campari and orange ice cream. Maybe studded with crystalized ginger. I have always liked the bitter and sweet of a Campari cocktail and with bitters being so popular I thought I might have a good chance.
I began by steeping some orange peel in some milk. But when I tasted it along with a splash of Campari, it was not coming together the way I envisioned. But the orange scent somehow reminded me of the smokey lapsang souchong tea. And just recently, before eating at the Squeaky Bean, we had a smokey mezcal cocktail that was paired with cassis, lime and ginger. At the time I made a mental note to try to make a lapsang souchong cocktail reminiscent of that mezcal one and now it seemed I’d be trying it in the ice cream instead.
I threw a couple tea bags in the milk and steeped a bit longer. I candied the remaining orange zest, made the custard base and folded just a bit of cassis in. The flavor was smokey, orangey and had an intriguing depth from the black currants. It was like an entire tea party in one, little, creamy bite. I poured it all into the ice cream machine and hoped for the best. And I have to say, it renewed my faith in the wonders of homemade ice cream.
Makes one good-sized tub
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cup cream
1 large orange
2 teaspoons lapsang souchong tea (or 2 tea bags)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
9 large egg yolks
1 pinch salt
3 tablespoons cassis
Use a peeler to peel orange being careful to not get any pith. If necessary, use a sharp knife to remove any. Chiffonade 2 T and set aside. Place the rest of zest in a pot with milk, cream and tea bags and heat to a gentle simmer for a minute. Turn off heat and steep for 15 minutes. Mixture should have a subtle, smokey tea flavor. Strain and return to pot.
Fill a large bowl with ice water and place a second bowl inside. Have a strainer ready.
Whisk egg yolks with 3/4 c sugar until slightly thickened and paler in color. Heat milk mixture to simmer again and add a bit to eggs whisking briskly. Return all to pot and simmer, whisking, until it begins to thicken. It should be pourable, but still coat the back of a spoon.
Pour custard through strainer into bowl in ice and stir until mixture is cool. Stir in cassis and salt, adjusting for taste. Place mixture in fridge until cold, then churn in ice cream maker according to instructions.
Heat remaining 1/4 sugar with 1/4 cup water and simmer remaining zest for 5 minutes. Drain, spread out on wax paper and allow to try. Toss with a bit of sugar. When ice cream is done, fold zest in, pack into containers and chill in freezer until ready to eat.