Recipe Sunday: Savory Ice Creams
I’ve been promising the recipes for the savory ice creams I made for last week’s Newsweek article. Here they are, starting with Avocado Wasabi Ice Cream, which is about the easiest thing you ever made.
A few notes about making savory ice cream. You can adapt an ice cream base to almost any ingredients you imagine; you just reduce the sugar a bit. But don’t try to take the sugar out entirely, because sugar helps control the formation of ice crystals, giving ice cream its creamy texture. And when you take out sugar, you need to add fat to compensate.
Savory sorbets are even easier than ice creams; they’re just juice and sugar and flavors. Because they lack fat to balance out their lower sugar content, however, savory sorbets will be delicious the day you make them, and the day after, but they will ice up after that and end up more like a popsicle. So if you want to make a savory sorbet ahead–make popsicles.
Alcohol flavors are delicious in ice cream, but alcohol itself will lower the freezing point of the ice cream. If you have the kind of freezer that most people have, where you stick the bowl in the freezer for 24 hours, it won’t be cold enough to freeze a boozy ice cream or sorbet. Cook the alcohol out first by heating over a high flame just until boiling.
All flavors are less intense when they’re cold, even basic tastes like sweet and salty. More complex flavors will be even less intense, because flavor is basically smell. Think about the difference between eating hot and cool stew and you’ll see what I mean. So when you’re working on a new flavor, remember that the hot ice cream base you’re cooking has a much stronger flavor than the ice cold final product.
If you have trouble getting any of these recipes to set up (freezer models do vary), try this trick: while you’re chilling most of the base, pour just a bit of the base into a jelly roll pan, just enough to make a thin layer. Freeze it. When you’re ready to chill your ice cream, scrape the frozen base off the jelly roll pan, and add it in with the rest of the base. It gives you a little bit of a jump start that helps it freeze without big crystals.
And with that, have fun. A few starting suggestions:
Avocado Wasabi Ice Cream
(adapted from Alton Brown)
3 medium avocados
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
1 1/2 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
Wasabi to taste (start with half a teaspoon and work up by the quarter-teaspoon. Remember two things: you want it to be an accent, not completely overpowering; and it will taste less strong when it is frozen. So my advice is to get it to the point where you want it, then add another quarter teaspoon. I usually end up using about 1.5-3 teaspoons depending on the strength of the wasabi)
Peel and pit the avocados, then put the meat in the blender with the other ingredients, including a half teaspoon of wasabi. Puree thoroughly. Taste mixture and whisk in extra wasabi to taste. Refrigerate at least four hours, preferably overnight. Freeze in ice cream freezer according to manufacturers instructions (it will freeze relatively quickly, so check it regularly).
Serve with any cold fish dish. I like to pair it with tuna or salmon tartare, on a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce.
Feta Ice Cream
(adapted from Kid Free Living)
1 cup feta
1/2 cup sour cream
2.5 cups light cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
7 egg yolks
(Optional) herbs to taste: dill, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, or tarragon, alone or in combination, would all be incredibly delicious. As with the wasabi in the above recipe, start with a half tablespoon of fresh, or a half teaspoon of dried, and work your way up slowly, tasting as you go.
Put feta, sour cream, and a cup of the light cream in a blender and puree.
Cook ice cream base: put sugar and the rest of the cream in a saucepan, and a small amount of herbs if you are using them, and heat until just simmering. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks. When cream is simmering, whisk about a quarter of it into the egg yolks to temper them, whisking very quickly so that they don’t cook into a coagulated mess. When the cream is thoroughly incorporated, whisk the egg yolk mixture into the rest of the cream in the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring until slightly thickened. (If you don’t know what you’re looking for when I say slightly thickened, this thread will help).
When the custard is cooked, put it in the blender with the feta and puree. Taste and adjust herbs. Refrigerate at least four hours, preferably overnight. Freeze in ice cream freezer according to manufacturers instructions. Serve with watermelon or beets or other sweet, firm produce. A drizzle of balsamic reduction would complement this beautifully.
Note: you can also make sweet feta ice cream, which is delicious, by doubling the sugar, cutting the feta in half, and using slightly less light cream.
Carrot Ginger Sorbet
I basically just used this recipe from Howard Yoon, who in addition to being a hell of a cook, is also, funnily enough, the partner of my literary agent. Though he has never made me savory ice sorbet; I just stumbled across the recipe while I was researching the topic.
It was completely incredible. The only change I made was that since I have a very high powered blender, I didn’t bother shredding the fresh ginger, which is fussy and takes approximately forever; I just peeled it and tossed it into the blender with the juice. Amazingly light and refreshing–you could serve as an appetizer, as a palate-cleanser between courses, or even as a not-so-sweet dessert. Can’t recommend highly enough.
Spicy Bacon Maple Bourbon Ice Cream
(adapted from this recipe in Imbibe magazine)
When I floated the topic of bacon maple bourbon ice cream, my husband immediately said “you have to make that!” My mother, who doesn’t have a either a sweet tooth or a bacon fetish, sort of curled up her nose, which is something my mother can actually do. “Maple is very sweet,” she said. ”You need to cut the sweetness.”
I decided to do so with Aleppo pepper, sprinkling it over the bacon during the cooking process. A+ idea. The result is definitely still on the sweet side–everyone ended up having a second helping for dessert at the tasting dinner–but would still be excellent as a starter with melon, or in a lettuce cup. The smoky, salty bacon and the creamy maple/brown sugar base are incredible together, and then suddenly at the end, you get a surprise burst of spicyness that makes everything even better.
However, I had big problems with the rest of the recipe. The original on the low fat side, and the alcohol lowered the freezing point, so that it didn’t set up in my freezer, which is a freezer-bowl model, not one with its own compressor. I ended up freezing it in a baking pan, stirring every half hour, which is a pain and also doesn’t work that well. The result was still amazingly delicious–most people said it was their favorite–but less creamy than ideal. So below is the adapted recipe, with a LOT more fat to help it set up, an extra freezing step, and the bourbon cooked in with the base, to remove some of the alcohol.
For the bacon:
6 strips bacon
2 tsp. brown sugar
Approximately one to two tablespoons Aleppo Pepper, a mild, smoky pepper frequently used in the Middle East. (You can order from Amazon; I get it in half pound bags from Penzey’s Spices, and use it in practically everything).
For the base:
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups light cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grade maple syrup
2 tsp. bourbon
Prepare the base: in a saucepan, scald the heavy cream with the bourbon (bring it just to a boil, and then turn off the heat.) In a stand mixer, beat together egg yolks and brown sugar. While the machine is still running, slowly pour in the scalded cream. Put the whole mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring, until it coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in the light cream, the bourbon, and the maple syrup. Refrigerate for at least four hours, and preferably overnight.
Prepare the bacon: preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking pan with greased foil or preferably a silicon liner. (The bacon is going to stick when we cook it. Sprinkle generously with brown sugar and aleppo pepper. Cook for eight minutes, then take the pan out of the oven, flip the bacon, sprinkle the other side with sugar and Aleppo pepper, and then cook for another eight minutes. Cool while you start freezing the base.
Freeze the base according to manufacturer’s instructions. About five minutes before the end, chop up the bacon into small pieces and add to the freezer. Freeze solid and serve with melon or in lettuce cups.
Update: on twitter, Scott Johnson suggests that you can add a small amount of alcohol by adding it towards the end. I haven’t tried it, but it sounds right–so if you want an actual alcoholic flavor, you might want to toss a teaspoon of bourbon in when you do the bacon.