I want to state up top that I didn't come up with the idea of olive oil ice cream. As I'm sure some of you already know, pouring olive oil over ice cream is an Italian tradition. Mixing it in is a pretty obvious next step and I'm far from the first to do it. I may be the first to make a Jeni Briton-style cornstarch and cream cheese olive oil ice cream, though.
The key to making this work is in both the choice of olive oil and exactly how much to use. I happen to have a big jug of La Española extra virgin. It's fruity, a little nutty and smooth without a lot of bite so a good choice for ice cream I think. I rather lucked out on that since I never know what I'm going to get when I buy a bottle of olive oil. I rarely buy a particular brand of olive oil since a) I always want to try something new and b) I keep forgetting to take notes on what I've tried, what it was like and how I liked it. I'm the same way with wine, really. As for how much to use, I decided to go with David Lebovitz's ratio of 1/2 cup of olive oil to 2 1/3 cups of dairy. I don't think I would have used so much I was making the decision on my own, but Lebovitz has rarely steered me wrong.
1 1/3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar (I realized belatedly that I only had demarara on hand--no white sugar--but I did a little taste test and liked the pairing with the olive oil so I went with it.)
1 scant Tablespoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons cream cheese
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Mix cornstarch with a little milk and set aside. Whip cream cheese until fluffy and set aside.
2. Heat milk, cream and sugar in a medium saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil. Simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in cream cheese, salt and olive oil. Cool, churn and chill.
I decided, since olive oil ice cream is often paired with chocolate sauce, to make chocolate stracciatella. If you don't remember from the first time I made them (or know from other sources in your full and rich lives), stracciatella are swirls of solid chocolate made by drizzling melted chocolate over ice cream spread out in a tray. I had some trouble getting my chocolate to drizzling consistency. Maybe my cocoa percentage was too high; it wasn't marked so no way to know for certain. So less stracciatella than clumpiatella. I broke it up as best I could and I think it turned out OK. Unfortunately, I forgot the step of firming up the ice cream in the freezer for an hour before drizzling so there was a fair bit of melting while I was fussing with the chocolate. If you want to see it done right, click on the link up there and see my first try at it.
For a finishing touch, I wanted a sprinkling of salt, also a traditional Italian thing. I tried fleur de sel, but it melted too easily into the ice cream. I liked the more intense effect of coarsely crushed sea salt instead.
If you've had Italian olive oil pastries you have a sense of the flavor of the ice cream. Smelling it is like sniffing a bottle of quality olive oil, but when you taste it, the sugar and cream round out the fragrant oil into a full fruity flavor. The match with the chocolate is unexpected, but the two are surprisingly close together, particularly with the addition of the molasses in the demerara sugar I used, and enhance each other. The salt brings out the fruitiness of the ice cream and brightens the flavor of the chocolate too so it's a very nice addition.
Oh, I've just had the idea to top it with balsamic vinegar instead of the salt. (I keep a little container of a 15-year balsamic at work as a condiment.) Just a few drops for a scoop of ice cream and...now that's something else. The bright berry flavors of the vinegar sparkle against rich olive oil background and pair beautifully with the chocolate. Now I see why balsamic truffles exist. There's a whole new level of flavor going on that was missing earlier. That's definitely the way to go.