Saturday, November 17, 2007

Something Suitably Seasonal

I wanted to do something Thanksgivingy this week, but turkey ice cream was a bit too far. That left me with cranberry sherbet or candied sweet potato ice cream. There are plenty of recipes for both out there. Too many for cranberries, I thought, for it to be worth making (for any other reason that I really like cranberries. And I don't). So I went with sweet potatoes. It was hard finding a recipe that was what I really wanted; the traditional Thanksgiving side-dish in ice cream form. Most used sweet potatoes from a can so those were out. Others were Caribbean with coconut and rum flavors I wasn't looking for. A lot of others were just sweet potato ice cream without the candying aspect I wanted. Specifically, none had marshmallows. That was important to me for the effect I was going for.

Now keep in mind that, as an east coast Jewish boy, I find the concept of marshmallows in a side dish not quite right. I consider candied sweet potatoes, green bean casserole and any sort of hot dish to be intimidatingly exotic foreign food. I don't think I've ever had either of the latter two. I've had the down south version of sweet potatoes, but not the full-on stick-of-butter, quart-of-sugar, bag-of-marshmallows Midwestern version.

So that's what I wanted to make, then stick in a blender, mix with some cream and throw in a churn. Lots of recipes out there for that, too, but I wimped out on the most traditional versions and went with this one from Whole Foods' website. I think it is approximating the Midwestern version I wanted without focusing so strongly on the sugar as some of the other recipes did. It also doesn't include any maple syrup which I hesitate to use in a recipe that's going to freeze.

If I were just going to make sweet potatoes for myself, I'd probably go with this New Orleans recipe which looks pretty close to the great sweet potato pone I had at Gullah Cuisine.

I didn't make a lot of adjustments to the Whole Foods recipe other than dividing it by four to get a reasonable amount of it for my purposes. I did want to add a bit of citrus as a lot of other recipes used orange juice or zest. I didn't have either on hand, but I did have a tangerine to zest and some orange-pineapple juice. I just used a pinch of one and a splash of the other; I didn't want those to be major aspects of the final flavor. I also punched up the spices (the, now getting a bit tired, trio of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger) to compensate for the flavor-dampening of cold temperatures.

The final result looked like this. I guess that's what it's supposed to look like. There wasn't a picture. I let it cool, picked off whatever marshmallows hadn't fully melted (for re-adding later), and poured it into the blender. My plan was to blend it smooth and then add it to this recipe. That was the most straightforward recipe I could fine. Really, I could have just made some of my standard ice cream base without a recipe, but I guess I'd rather gamble that Oprah hired a good food editor than on my own ability to guestimate the right ratios. You'll notice that Oprah's recipe is called "Candied Sweet Potato Ice Cream," but it isn't candied at all; They just add brown sugar to ice cream base. Not good enough for me, so I substituted in a pound of real candied sweet potatoes (with the spices Oprah was missing), reversed the 2:1 milk to cream ratio, and added some marshmallows.

I probably should have used a food processor instead of a blender for the sweet potatoes, because they just wouldn't blend. I kept adding more of the cream until I didn't have enough left to make a custard base with. It was thick enough that I think the eggs won't be missed. It's not like the recipe needed the extra fat, anyway.

Most of the marshmallows melted into the potatoes so I baked up a bunch more. These got crispy instead of gooey so I'm curious how they'll be in the final ice cream.

In the churn, the mix didn't freeze in the usual way. Usually, a layer freezes onto the inside of the bucket that needs to be scraped off to mix in and thicken the rest of the mix. This time, the whole mass thickened up pretty quickly and the outside layer was thicker and gooier, but not really solid. All that starch, I suppose. The flavor ended up hard to distinguish from pumpkin pie, but I got hints that it would change a bit when it ripened.

Those disturbing-looking things at the bottom of the picture there are toasted marshmallows not severed fingertips, by the way.

The final result has a lovely presentation with the pastel orange dotted with blobs of white delineated in dark brown. The texture is a little gritty, but that can't be helped. The marshmallows retained their foamy gooey texture even frozen, at least in my non-industrial strength freezer. The freezer at work may do a more thorough job. However, it is important not to let it melt as it turns into a fairly nasty mush instead of the puddle normal ice cream turns into. The flavor is milder than I'd like, but the sweet potatoes are distinct and clearly not pumpkin. And the marshallows are notably toasty. On the whole, I think I'll call this a success. Next time, I'll do it more Southern with molasses and pecans.

No comments: