Monday, October 8, 2007

Ice Cream Experiment #1 - nowhere to go but up

It was the start of mango season, back in mid-July, and a co-worker had brought in a big pile of mangoes. I already had cooked and brought in a few things so the mangoes were deposited outside my office and I was given instructions to do something with them.

I didn't much care for being taken for granted after only being there five months, but I can't honestly claim that that wasn't what I was going to do anyway. It was pretty tough finding an appealing recipe; There's not all that much to do with mangoes. Eventually I settled on this recipe for mango ice cream. And, since I was feeling ambitious, I figured some sesame brittle mixed in would go nicely.

I had hoped to borrow an ice cream maker, but the only one anyone had was the old fashioned sort with the ice and the salt and who wants to deal with that? Thirty bucks later I had one of my own and I was ready to go.

There were a couple of problems right off. Primarily, the ingredient "large mangoes" is rather less precise than it might be. The mangoes available here in Miami are huge and it just didn't occur to me that they meant those dinky little things you see in supermarkets up north. It didn't help that the particular mangoes I set aside for the recipe serenely sat in my kitchen for over a week neither ripening or rotting like some sort of fruit zen masters divorced from the flow of time.

The second bit of grief was the instructions for caramelizing the mango: "Cook until the caramel dissolves". What does that even mean? Caramel can't dissolve; it's already a liquid. You know, I don't think I've ever successfully caramelize a piece of fruit in my life. I read recently that the trick is cooking it until all the fruit juice released evaporates, but that sounds like a split second of goodness before you end up with a pan full of burnt ruined fruit and I can't recall another recipe that described it that way. I'll figure it out eventually I guess.

But, back to the ice cream: even without all the extra mango and the extra mix-in of the sesame brittle (which I only scorched a little), the recipe would have over filled my modestly sized ice cream machine so I ended up with ice cream churned up all over the place. It all would have been worth it if it had tasted OK, but the bland under-ripe mangoes were like a big blanket of blah smothering the other flavors. Not a great start, but that first failure inspired me to figure this whole ice cream thing out, and 10 weeks later I've got a decent handle on it.

I still think the recipe could work just fine. Next mango season I'll give it another shot.

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