Monday, February 16, 2009

Tropical cheesecake ice cream

This isn't quite the ice cream I set out to make. The original idea here was a) to test Jeni Britton's eggless ice cream recipe in a more complicated preparation than straight vanilla and b) use the leftover CSA carambola.

1 carambola
2/3 cup chopped pineapple
1 Tablespoon salted butter
1 Tablespoon brown sugar

The first change was because the carambola was a bit on the small side to flavor a full batch of ice cream. So I added a handful of frozen pineapple. That's not the best quality stuff so I knew I couldn't just use it straight. Instead I broke up the frozen pieces, sliced the carambola, sprinkled both with a mix of brown sugar and softened butter and put them under the broiler for around eight minutes. Broiling isn't the most popular way to cook fruit but I wanted the caramelization intense direct heat would give me which rules out roasting and I wanted to retain the released juices which rules out grilling (even if I had a grill). I think the broiling worked well, deepening and complicating the simple bright flavors of the fruit.

1 1/3 cups whole milk
7 ounces heavy cream
1 scant half cup sugar
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
1 pinch salt

Next, I cut down the ice cream base recipe by a third since it makes a pretty big batch and I only had 3/4 cup of fruit to add. The original recipe called for simmering the milk and cream for four minutes with a vanilla bean to infuse the flavor so I figured I could simmer with the fruit and get a similar effect. It was kind of weird, but the milk mixture started thickening up before I added the corn starch. I did boil the milk a little high for a while; maybe that was it, or maybe it was a chemical effect from the fruit (although I can't find any indication either fruit can do that). I dunno.

1 scant Tablespoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons cream cheese, softened

So when I added the cornstarch (mixed with a little of the milk) to the mix, it thickened up into a custard-like consistency. And that got even thicker when I mixed in the cream cheese. That cream cheese was the impetus for the third big change. It was from the same container of cream cheese I used in the original recipe a couple weeks ago and you know how cream cheese gets stronger in flavor over time. With that flavor in the mix, it tasted like cheesecake. Nothing wrong with that even if it wasn't quite what I was aiming at. I decided to go with it by gathering about a half cup of crumbs from my last batch of oat bars (I made it with pumpkin butter as I said I would. Not bad, but I should have added a bit of lemon.) to mix in after churning to simulate a crumb crust.

After a night in the refrigerator, the mix was seriously thick. Mixes that thick usually stop the churn's motor before they can get a good amount of air churned in, but this one, because it was a small batch, managed to wind itself up around the paddle leaving the bucket to spin freely, stopping the churning early without stopping the motor.

In went the crumbs and then a night in the freezer. Here's the final version:

The extra thickness out of the churn translated to a pretty solid, but still scoopable ice cream out of the freezer. There are actually a few issues there; that thickness certainly, but also how packed full of solid bits this particular flavor is, and third, the ice cream began melting with some alacrity as I was scooping it out of the churn-bucket which means I immediately lost a fair bit of the churned in air. In the future I think I'll stick a dishtowel in the freezer to use as a buffer between the ice cream carton I'm filling and the warm metal top of my kitchen cart.

All those solid bits I mentioned mean that this is a pretty chewy ice cream. The strong cream cheese flavor I was getting earlier is hard to find between the crust crumbs and bits of caramelized fruit in each bite. The former is a little prominent over the latter so I'd make a note to use less next time if I had any idea how much I used this time. On the other hand, the fruit flavor has spread out into the ice cream itself more. It's subtle until you bit into a bit of fruit, but it's there. Pineapple and carambola don't identifiably jump out at you (particularly since their flavors were altered by the broiling) but that light vague tropical flavor permeates the whole. Leaving the fruit a little chunky (and leaving the skin on the carambola) was a good idea; I like all the different textures I'm getting and the variation in flavor in each bite. There's a good bit of sugar in each of the components so the whole is pretty sweet, but I think there's enough else going on to keep it from getting cloying. Overall, I'm really liking the combination and complexity of this recipe and the Jeni-style base is an important component and not just a good way to avoid separating eggs. It's got a real Ben & Jerry's vibe to it, too. Nobody else has tried it yet, but I think it's going to go over well.

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