Friday, December 25, 2009

Tasting Ice Cream

Making ice cream at the holidays is a nice way for everyone in the family to take part in the day’s feasting.  Today’s recipe can be made with little advance notice.

Over Thanksgiving one of the uncles instigated some ice cream making. Our nephew Liam took a starring role as head taster proving that reliable taste buds are ready to go at any age.  At first, Liam said more sugar would make it taste better.  But when he sampled his own mix, he found perfection with 1/3 less sugar than called for in the base recipe.  Here’s how he did it:

The Purist’s Vanilla Ice Cream
2 cups cream
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3-1 cup sugar

The ice cream mixture can be mixed in a bowl but if you have active bodies around the house, it is fun to shake the ingredients together in a plastic container with a well-fitted lid.  Since there is no egg in this recipe, it does not need to be cooked and is ready to go into the freezing bowl of your ice cream maker as soon it is mixed.  (We store the freezing bowls to our ice cream makers in the freezer so they are ready when we are. Otherwise most require several hours or overnight freezing.)

Combine first three ingredients plus 1/3 cup of sugar.  Mix together vigorously so that sugar is dissolved completely and have a taste.  Add sugar, just one tablespoon at a time until the sweetness suits your tasters.  Liam found he liked 2/3 cup of sugar.  Freeze according to your machine’s instructions and enjoy.  The ice cream should be stored in a re-sealable container in the freezer.  This ice cream passed the root beer float and pie tests. 

Another great holiday ice cream gets its sweetness from maple syrup and richness from egg yolks and butter.  Serve Maple Butter Pecan Ice Cream with holiday pies, Bouche de Noel or put a dollop in Mrs. Claus’ favorite, egg nog.

Maple Butter Pecan Ice Cream
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon cornstarch
6 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

Place cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium-low heat to just simmering.   Meanwhile, mix maple syrup, cornstarch and egg yolks together with a whisk.  When cream is heated lower the heat and whisk about 1/3 of cream into maple syrup mixture stirring rapidly to prevent lumping.  (This step tempers the egg yolks so they can withstand the next stage of heating and thickening the cream mixture without scrambling the eggs.) 

Pour the maple syrup-cream mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the warmed cream and cook over very low heat until mixture is thickened (do not allow to boil).  When mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, turn off heat and add cinnamon and butter.  Allow butter to melt, then pour ice cream mix into a separate container to cool completely. If you suspect there are any lumps or tiny bits of egg yolk, strain the mixture.

Store covered in the refrigerator.  Ice cream mix must be cold to properly freeze in an ice cream maker.

While the ice cream mixture cools, toast the nuts.
Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Place pecans in a single layer on a cookie sheet, (ungreased).  Bake nuts 60 seconds.  Check nuts to be sure no edges are burning.  Pecans are high in fat and burn quickly so use a timer to prevent forgetting them in the oven.  Check nuts every 30 seconds.  Pecans generally take no longer than 2-3 minutes.  They will crisp up as they cool.

When ice cream mixture is completely cool, pour into an ice cream maker and follow freezing instructions.  Add nuts according to manufacturers recommendations. Since most ice cream is removed from machines before it really hardens, I add the nuts after the ice cream is finished and out of the freezing bowl.  Store ice cream in a re-sealable container in the freezer.  Eat immediately or allow to cure and harden several hours.

Note: Ice creams made with "liquid" sugars like honey and maple syrup do not freeze as hard as ones made with cane sugar.  They will firm up more in the freezer. 
This recipe can be cut down for smaller machines easily.  Follow the directions above with the following proportions:
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup whole milk
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cups coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts