Thursday, December 4, 2008

Caramel black tea ice cream

Actually, it's caramel black tea ice cream with a lemon caramel swirl and bits of shortbread.

I've been meaning to make a black tea ice cream for a while now; in particular I've been thinking of using Earl Grey. But I'm out of that and I have got plenty of caramel tea which is just straight ahead black tea with little cubes of (freeze-dried maybe?) caramel in it. I've also got some caramel sauce leftover from my bananas foster misadventure a while back that I wanted to use up. The shortbread I bought long ago for that Earl Grey ice cream I never made and have been nibbling away at since. Why not add in what I've got left?

I've had some problems infusing tea into ice cream previously in a chai ice cream I made last year and a green tea ice cream I made before starting the blog so I gave some consideration to my approach. Despite reservations over the possibility of stewing the infusion, I decided to brew the tea the same way I've made coffee ice cream. I used four Tablespoons of tea for two cups of cream and one of milk, the same amount of tea I would use for six cups of water. All those go into a pot cold, slowly brought to a boil and then let to cool for 15 minutes. A taste right from the pot was pretty bitter as I had feared, but I'm adding a full cup of sugar so that can be overcome. It's also interesting to note that the tea absorbed a good half cup of water out of the mix.

That cup of sugar I mixed with four egg yolks. That's a lot for the two and a half cups of dairy left, but what the heck. I'm not experimenting with weird substitutions today so I may as well go for super-premium levels of fat. I made a custard the usual way and cooled down the mix. It got to a syrupy level texture which is about right for going into the churn. When it gets to more of a pudding texture you know it's going to thicken up too quick and you won't get the right amount of air churned in.

As for the caramel sauce, I squeezed in fresh lemon juice until it had thinned out enough to be gooey, but not chewy at freezer temperatures. There was already a bit of booze in it so I knew it wouldn't freeze up. To be honest, I was under the misapprehension that caramel plus lemon made butterscotch which is an odd thing to think as it includes neither butter nor scotch. Actually, butterscotch is made by melting brown sugar and adding butter, scotch optional, which makes more sense. Anyway, both caramel and lemon go nicely with tea so no complaints at the results.

And the shortbread I froze and then cut into half-inch pieces. I didn't want the crumb-filled texture I got from the pumpernickel Nutella ice cream so I was careful to keep the pieces intact and tossed the crumbs. In retrospect the pumpernickel and Nutella would have made a great bread pudding instead of a weird ice cream; If I wasn't so fixated on ice cream I would have thought of that.

So, anyway, churning went better than it's gone in a long time, creating a smooth creamy texture without a lot of drama from freezing too quickly or slowly. Once I got it to soft-serve texture I scooped it out by quarters and layered each with drizzles of caramel and handfuls of shortbread and then folded it all together.

After ripening, it hardened up just right, slightly firmer but keeping all of the creaminess, just about as good as ice cream gets really. I think the caramel sauce melted into the ice cream a bit which probably helped the texture there, but the thicker streams kept some separate identity. I probably should have used straight black tea instead of the caramel version to get more contrast between the ice cream and the swirl. Right now they're both primarily caramel with notes of dairy and tea or citrus depending. I don't think you could even identify that note as tea if it wasn't pointed out to you which is a bit of a shame. I shouldn't complain much about that as the ice cream really is spectacularly good and any possible refinements are out of intellectual interest more than sensual improvements. The shortbread is, of course, buttery and crumbly and a lovely addition. See, this is what happens when you stop screwing around and make ice cream out of actual ice cream ingredients using actual ice cream recipes. Well, enough of that, my next ice cream will have to be extra weird to compensate.


kat said...

I'm pretty sure there is an ice cream maker under the Christmas tree for me so I'll have to come back & read all your ice cream posts for lots of tips

Jenn's an ice cream maker said...

Great informative post! It was really helpful! Thanks! What an interesting recipe idea. I haven't made a black tea ice cream yet - but it's been on my list for awhile!

billjac said...

Thanks! I'm a little disappointed at how little tea flavor actually came through in the final ice cream. I may play around with a few variations with different teas and mix ins to see what works best.

Angeelina said...

I like the other variety Matcha with caramel sauce. My husband's more favorite is black tea ice cream. I advise him to avoid this for it has too much calorie.

billjac said...

I've never even considered pairing green tea with caramel. I'll have to give that a try. I've also got an idea for a lapsang souchong ice cream sweetened with honey which I think should work.