Monday, December 3, 2007

Safe but tasty

After the extra-experimental semi-successes of my last two ice cream experiments (Thai iced coffee and candied yam for those who haven't been paying attention), I decided to go with something rather safer this week. For that reason, I made David Lebovitz's recipe for white chocolate and fresh ginger ice cream without major modification. Lebovitz is the author of the universally adored ice cream cookbook The Perfect Scoop so I figured it was a pretty good bet. I did want to add something of my own to it, particularly as I wasn't going to match it with a nectarine and cherry compote as he did.

Looking around for flavors that play well with both white chocolate and ginger, I settled on cranberries. There aren't an enormous number of recipes using all three, but all three pairs turn up pretty frequently. Lazy as I was being, I couldn't be bothered with dealing with fresh berries and instead used the half-dried sugar-injected cranberries from the gourmet grocery. Frozen, they're a bit chewier than they are at room temperature so I'd suggest chopping them up for lots of little specks of berry if you're going to follow my example. But they were fine whole so use your own judgment.

I used Callebaut chocolate which is my preferred brand of chocolate when I'm buying in big chunks. However, I really don't think it makes a big difference which brand you buy when you're talking about white chocolate as long as you stick to the high quality names. If anyone knows better do please correct me, but I can't imagine anyone bothering with a white chocolate taste test.

I won't go into great detail as this recipe isn't mine, but I do have a couple of observations.

First, white chocolate and ginger are a great synergistic combination. White chocolate on its own is, while flavorful, very one-note (despite the chemical complexity of cocoa butter). Ginger gives it a spicy complexity it lacks while the white chocolate smooths out ginger's harsh edges. It's not a completely uncommon pairing, but I think it deserves wider recognition. Personally, I found the flavors in this ice cream recipe a bit strong for my tastes. That may have come from rounding errors as I cut the original amounts by two-thirds to fit in my churn, but I'd back off the amounts or add a half cup of milk next time.

Second, from my experience using chocolate in ice cream before, I expected the mix to firm up in the refrigerator before churning. Not only didn't it firm up, it never really solidified in the churn or even after ripening. I'm not complaining; the lack of thickening allowed extra air to be churned in giving it a light smooth texture. Given the strong flavors, I don't think I'd want it any denser. What I had forgotten was that I was comparing white chocolate with dark chocolate which not only is chock full of cocoa solids, but also doesn't have any milk in it. Of course white chocolate is much more melty.

Tossing a chunk of white chocolate into a fruit-based ice cream should improve the texture and give a subtle added component to the flavor. I bet it would work well with any berry or stone fruit. I'll make a note of that for next spring when they're in season.

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