Thursday, September 06, 2007
Orange and Rosemary Ice Cream
I'm surprised, actually, that I have not written more posts on ice cream, for my angelheart Eric and I eat it throughout the year. I don't think in all of my life there has been a time in which at least a quart of ice cream cannot be found in the freezer - except other than when I spent some months living in France back in 1997. New Zealanders are amongst the largest consumers of ice cream in the world, so it is no wonder, then, that ice cream is on the grocery list if I have not taken the little time needed to make it myself.
To understand better the method, I would prefer to devote time to the various techniques and what seems to be changing quantities of liquid. Time, however, is of the essence and is not something I presently have in surplus (and I won't have it until after mid-December, when my Master's thesis is due). In the course of some quick reading here and there, I have come across a method that I had forgotten about. This method involves stirring firm whipping/double cream into a cooled custard. You need the cream anyway (unless you're making ice cream from yoghurt), so it may as well be as luxurious as is possible. The custard is always the perplexing thing, for the number of egg yolks to whole/full fat milk and sugar always varies. Perhaps the only thing that ultimately changes is the volume that is produced at the end, and I have just to work out the formula. Again...next year. What also makes a difference to the volume, and the reason for which I make ice cream at home in the first place, is that too much air provides too light an ice cream, which is the problem I have with commercial ice creams, even the top-shelf kind, however velvety they are. An ice cream maker for home does the job beautifully, saving one on labour, but also ensuring not too much air is whipped into the product.
What should also be whipped into the product is something aromatic. Most of us lovingly use herbs and spices in the kitchen, and the more I spend time cooking, the more intimately I want to know how fragrant flora can be applied to various dishes. In fact, I almost always want to add at least one to any dish I make - even ice cream. The inspiration for today's ice cream comes from a couple of sources. The first is Diana Henry's enchanting Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons in which she offers a custard-base ice cream of Lemon and Basil. The combination of herb and citrus started me off quite squarely. I forgot I was making ice cream and just thought about the herb and citrus combinations I love best: tarragon and orange, sweet basil and lime, thyme and lemon, cilantro/corriander and grapefruit, bay leaf and kumquat. The second inspirational source is Jerry Traunfeld's
The Herbal Kitchen and his soft-set (that is to say, milk and cream-based ice cream) Strawberry Rose Geranium Ice Cream. This made me think to look outside in the garden and find what we have growing there now. How could I have forgotten rosemary? This is the herb that I loved most as a kid (well, that and marjoram, which features prominently in the potato salad that is on the family buffet table at every Christmas lunch). In retrospect, it seems so at odds with my mother's suburban garden of ferns, roses, Birds of Paradise. Perhaps that is why I liked it. Always fragrant and always available, it seemed other-worldly to me. Even now it has the power to transport. Rosemary also has the tendency to taste acrid once it hits hot liquid. The key is to allow it to steep in milk that has already been brought to the boiling point and to not use too much.
Making custard can be frightening all because once the egg yolk looks like it is curdling, one has to act promptly to save it. Either keep beside the stove a bowl of iced water large enough to hold your saucepan or have enough cold water and chunks of ice in a sink to come halfway up the side of your saucepan. Should the egg yolks look like they are curdling, lift your saucepan and place it in a vessel with iced-water and whisk like mad until it comes together again. You could also take the saucepan directly off the heat, dump in a few ice cubes, and, again, whisk furiously. Once stable, put back on the heat until the custard is finished. You may lose some volume because of this, but it is better than having no custard base at all. This stressful procedure can be circumvented altogether by making the custard in a bain marie or by setting the element to medium-low, as opposed to medium, which will mean it could take up to 30 minutes to complete. Remember, you are making a custard base, so it doesn't have to be set solid. A slightly thick set will suffice. The setting can be tested by running your finger down the back of the spoon. If the line left remains clear, like the parted Red Sea, then the custard base is done.
This ice cream recipe makes enough for 1 quart.
Orange and Rosemary Ice Cream
10 fl. oz/1 1/4 cups whole/full fat milk
3 sprigs rosemary, each approximately 15cm/7" long
rind of 1 orange, cut into strips, pith removed
5 1/2 oz/slightly more than 1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
juice of 1 orange, strained
5oz/ 1/2 cup whipping/double cream
1) Bring milk to the boiling point, then take off the heat.
2) Add rosemary sprigs and orange rind to boiled milk. Cover and allow to steep for 40 minutes to one hour.
3) Beat sugar and egg yolks together until pale and fluffy.
4) Strain the rosemary and orange-infused milk into the sugar and yolk mixture. Stir to incorporate. Pour into a saucepan.
5) Make a custard by continuously whisking over medium heat until thickened, then stir with a wooden spoon until the back of it is well coated. Over a medium heat, this should not take much more than 10-15 minutes.
6) Pour into another bowl, cool, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.
7) Stir orange juice into the custard.
8) Lightly beat the whipping/double cream until gently thickened (no stiff peaks), then fold into the custard base.
9) Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions or still-freeze (whizz in a blender or use a hand-held beater once every hour for three hours to prevent ice crystals from forming).
This is an incredibly mellow, though tantalising ice cream. The rosemary is not at all overly pronounced - in fact, you might have to work at it to guess that it is there at all. One knows, though, that orange is not the sole flavour at work. You could, of course, be more daring and add a few more sprigs, but I personally prefer the rosemary lazing about in the background, letting the warming and zesty attributes of the orange take centre stage. This is dreamy, subtle, and somehow perfectly summery, despite the fact that orange is a Winter fruit.
Other ice cream posts:
Dried Fig and Coffee Ice Cream
Stem Ginger and Spice Ice Cream
You're spot-on about too much rosemary; I think that's what really killed Socrates. It's the lightest, most ephemeral touch that blesses ice creams best. All your examples are impossible to choose from...rose geranium? Pinch me. I've a Grey Lady Plymouth turning into a shrub in my mother's garden. Must do something with her before first frost....
Speaking of New Zealanders and ice cream, have you tried the organic blueberry sorbet from the little town of Matakana? (Can't seem to find the name of the store itself...sorry) If your out and about, do look out for it - it's gorgeous.
The flavours you've chosen sound delightful!
p/s: all the best with the thesis.
Perhaps only another sprig would have sufficed to really hone in on the rosemary, but other than that, it was perfect. There are a few geraniums whose leaves can be used to steep in hot milk to imbue an ice cream with its perfumey goodness. I recall rose geranium in an ice cream I only had once as a child, though there were always these geraniums in the garden.
Lucy - The combination is really well paired, even if I say so myself. I hoped it would work out, and I based this notion on the fact that I often throw orange and rosemary into the cavity of a roasting chicken!
I think the sorbet of which you speak is the product of blueberries grown only one hour North of Auckland in Omaha. The Omaha Blueberries' range is great. Did you try their "Blue Berry Juice"?
Cynthia - Well, I suppose rosemary isn't a typical component of any dessert, but it pairs so well with citrus. One only has to be mindful of how much rosemary he/she is using.
Nora B. - I hope this inspires you. My angelheart Eric often "oohs and aahs" when I tell him what special ice cream I have made for him. Perhaps your partner will do the same. Let me know what you make.
Thanks for the good wishes regarding the thesis. Right now, all I al thinking is: It will get done because it has to.
Sara, darling - I have made ice cream enough times to have figured out my own times - some learned from others, too. All one really needs is a little time to make ice cream. It isn't all that difficult, and one gets used to noting the temperature in the saucepan and making the requisite changes to the temperature of the element. Other than that, there are a million flavours to try, and that alone is worth overcoming the fear of making custard.