Monday, September 22, 2008

Grand Slam Ice Cream

so-called because it contains a cup of coffee, a glass of milk, a waffle with maple syrup and banana, two eggs and three slices of bacon--all the components (more or less) of a Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast.

You knew as well as I that I was going to make a bacon ice cream sooner or later. Straight bacon ice cream is pretty passe these days; it was over a year ago that Michael Symon got dinged for making it during the Next Iron Chef competition. If you look around on-line you see variations like maple-bacon, coffee-bacon, peanut butter-bacon and the like so that next step beyond is well trodden. I needed not just a more complex flavor but some grander idea to make it worth while and so a complete breakfast ice cream was born.

The first thing was to infuse the coffee. I coarsely ground three Tablespoons of coffee beans and added them to 1 cup heavy cream and 1 1/2 cup milk. I slowly heated that to the edge of simmering and then turned off the heat, put on the lid and let it sit for 15 minutes. Not quite boiling means that I don't release the more bitter flavor components in the coffee and get a smoother flavor.

After it was done steeping I strained out the coffee grounds, pressing them to get out all the liquid, and split the dairy into two batches. I wanted to thicken it both with (two) egg yolks and (one) banana but I don't know what it is in the banana that mimics a custard I don't know if it would survive heating and I'm sure that the protein chains that egg yolks thicken with won't survive a spin in the blender. That means two separate operations to be mixed later.

First one's easy, 1 cup dairy plus one frozen-and-defrosted banana blended together.

For the second one I whisked the two egg yolks with 5 fluid ounces of grade A dark amber maple syrup. That amount was determined by what I had on hand but it worked out so I'll leave it as is. Grade A dark is actually an average as I have a bunch of sample bottles of different grades and I mixed some grade B, some grade A dark and the dregs of my big bottle of grade A medium. Once that was smooth I mixed it with 1 1/2 cups of dairy and slowly heated it to 170 degrees whisking frequently to create a custard. I immediately removed it from the pan and cooled for a half hour and mixed it with the banana blend. I noticed that it tasted really good warm which meant it wasn't sweet enough for freezing. So I added a quarter cup of white sugar before chilling it overnight to 40 degrees.

Meanwhile, it was time to cook the bacon. That's three strips for the ice cream and one for me. I preferred method is baking in my toaster oven. Ten minutes at 350 degrees, give the strips a flip, another ten minutes and maybe a bit longer depending on how they're doing. This particularly bacon is thick cut--the extra-nice, extra-fancy, extra-expensive sort from Whole Foods. It's great and I'm never going back to the supermarket stuff--so it took an extra five minutes and maybe could have cooked a bit longer to get really crisp, but I didn't figure it would stay crisp in the ice cream so I didn't want to take the risk of burning it. If it wasn't going into something sweet I would have sprinkled it with brown sugar which candies the bacon up nicely and very tastily.

I also chopped up a frozen waffle. Even if I had a waffle maker I probably would have gone with store bought as I expect they're well-designed for freezing. I used Van's whole-grain Belgian waffles which have a good bit of flavor and a firm texture that Eggo doesn't deliver.

In the morning the mix wasn't noticeably thick, but it did heavily coat a dipped spatula which is what you're looking for in an ice cream mix.

It churned up nicely with a good gradual freezing and a slowly thickening texture. That allows plenty of time for churned in air which helps keep the results from freezing too solidly. I mixed in the bacon and waffle as I spooned out the churned ice cream. No point in pouring the solid bits into the churn where they can get ground up and jam the works. And then into the freezer for ripening.

And here's the final product. Bacon entirely aside, the coffee/maple/banana combination is fabulous. Even my co-workers who picked out the bacon raved about the ice cream. There was a nice synergy of the three flavors straight out of the churn, but after ripening coffee has come to the forefront with the others rounding it out. If you make it, I'd suggest using only two scoops of coffee beans or just mashing up the beans in a mortar instead of grinding them.

There's enough bacon and waffle to get one or the other in most bites. If you get the bacon there are hints of salt and smoke poking through the intense but mellow flavor of the ice cream--which actually works quite well. The ice cream melts away rapidly without much lingering aftertaste so you're left just chewing a piece of really good bacon and/or a not-bad-at-all chunk of whole-grain waffle. The few seconds of overlap as the flavors build and fade in intensity are the best part.

The texture is about as good as I've ever managed: soft, smooth and creamy. I think that's from the fructose in the maple syrup. I could see the mix getting gooey as it froze in the churn instead of just hardening up. The texture of the waffles isn't great--a bit stiff and crumbly--but it's a good contrast and the flavor blooms as you chew it so not too bad. I was afraid it would get soggy, but I think the hearty multigraininess helped avoid that Eggo-esque possibility. Surprisingly, the bacon retains a bit of crunch around the edges with a nice chewy center. There was some concern expressed that an unnamed "some people" might not like the chewiness. Maybe I could have cooked the bacon crisper, but with thick-cut bacon there's a fine line between crisp and burnt and you start to lose flavor as you approach it. Now that I know that bacon retains its texture when mixed in ice cream, I'll probably go with thinner, crisper bacon next time it's an appropriate addition.

Overall, a great success but not a terribly surprising one. Of course all these flavors go together; I'm just presenting them unusually. I think that's a bit less impressive than novel flavor combinations that work out. That's what I'll have to work on next.


kat said...

Wow, that is one crazy ice cream! but i bet it is also one fantastic ice cream!

billjac said...

Crazy is easy. The real challenge is creating something crazy that works for everyone not just the adventurous eaters. If you read the on-line reviews of experimental places like WD-50 and minibar that's where things tend to fall down. So I consider that my goal when I'm playing around in that realm.

Trina said...