Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The world's simplest ice cream

My actual plan was to make something rather complicated. It was going to be a Thai lime ice cream flavored with kaffir lime leaves, lime juice and zest (the regular sort, not kaffir, as my little kaffir lime tree hasn't borne any fruit yet) and ginger over a base of coconut milk and condensed milk. But when I opened my can of sweetened condensed milk I found it full of dulce de leche. Disconcerting, but you can make dulce de leche by heating an unopened can of condensed milk in the oven or immersing it in simmering water for a couple hours so it's explicable. It's not like the can was full of green beans. It must have been left to sit in an extraordinarily hot warehouse for a while. This is what happens when I shop at my lousy corner bodega.

Kaffir lime's not going to hold up against the caramel flavor of dulce de leche, but waste not want not. One can coconut milk plus one can dulce de leche equals one batch of coconut dulce de leche ice cream mix. I added a pinch of salt and a dash of vanilla, but that's certainly optional. And, since it had thickened into pudding in the refrigerator, I stirred in a half cup of milk just before churning. Maybe it's getting a little complicated in practice, but it's simple at heart.

The texture is perfectly smooth, luscious and creamy. I was afraid that it was going to freeze up hard, but nope. Part of it may be that I gave it a full 20 minutes of churning, but I'm getting convinced that it's the coconut milk that really does the trick. I'm curious enough that I might actually try the experiments I mentioned last time to pin down just how strong that effect is.

The flavor isn't terribly subtle or sophisticated, but it's milk caramel with notes of coconut; Who needs subtle when you're straightforwardly yummy? The coconut flavor increases as it melts (which it does quite quickly) so there's some interesting variation between spoonfuls. I like that the flavor doesn't hit you over the head. Caramel flavors can often be big, bright and artificial. This ice cream's flavor isn't understated, but it isn't overstated either. It's just there at the right level.

If I were going to complicate this, I think I might add chocolate in some form and/or bananas. Or maybe pineapple and allspice would be nice.

And, on second thought, I don't think the flavor of kaffir lime leaf in my original plan would have stood up to condensed milk or maybe any dairy at all. Kaffir lime sorbet is probably a better idea. I'll have to work on that.


LaDivaCucina said...

When life hands you dulce de leche, make ice cream!

kat said...

I want to do a salted caramel ice cream, this might give me a good starting point since I have dulce de leche in the cupboard

billjac said...

That's not a bad idea. Once you add caramel to a dairy base it become pretty near indistinguishable from dulce de leche, and using the ready-made saves you the tricky business of getting the caramel cooked without burning.

Salted caramel ice cream's been on my to-do list for quite some time. I think I'll salt a scoop of this ice cream later today to get a sense of what it might be like.