Woke up to the first dusting of snowy waves on the green grass the other morning, and thought, “Today would be a great day for ice cream!”
A friend and I have fallen into the habit of giving each other cooking-related birthday presents every year. I don’t think it was a conscious decision, but it’s always fantastic. This year she gave me Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. It’s a dangerous book — I have been known to read it like a novel, crying with happiness at how romantic the story of ‘Gorgonzola Dolce and Candied Walnuts’ was. Hello my name is Heidi, and I am a food geek.
I think I overdid it with the fall flavors this year. When perusing, I passed over all the November lovelies: sweet potato, pear, maple, and zeroed in on lemon, which I don’t generally start craving until January. I think it might be a sentimental thing, because I can’t have lemon anything without thinking of my grandmother.
She always had a tea in her house called ‘I Love Lemon’, but with a little heart for the “love”. When I was a kid, she and I would be the only ones awake early in the morning. She’d make a pot of lemon tea, with lemon juice and honey (out of her honey bear, of course) and we’d sit outside on her porch swing and sip tea, watching the dew and the soft morning sun, until the rest of the house would slowly shuffle into the kitchen to start breakfast. I don’t have many specific memories, but her blue terrycloth bathrobe, the way her Mary Kay hand cream smelled, and how special it felt to be the only one she was sharing tea with, will always stay with me. Last year at this time she was visiting through the holidays (and I do mean all of them — Halloween through after New Year’s!), but this year decided to stay home with my aunt and cousins. Fair is fair — I guess I’ll just have to supplement the peppermint creams and cinnamon cookies with a few extra lemon meringue pies this year.
Now on to my confession. I did not read the recipe all the way through before starting. It doesn’t seem to be necessary at the time — I mean, hey, I read all the ingredients, right? Just throw them in the pot, no big deal. Well, as I was boiling the milk (and panicking slightly), I noticed small chunks rising in the bubbles. More panic. I whisked frantically, took it off the heat and put it back on, pretty much everything except reading the directions closely. After I added the cornstarch, it dawned on my that I had added the cream cheese into the boiling mixture, and I felt a small amount of relief. It hadn’t curdled! So I poured it into a bowl and took out my secret weapon: the Immersion Blender, AKA duct tape of the kitchen. This little darling has helped me out of many scrapes before, including cooking the eggs into a custard (so very, very unpretty). A few zaps with the blender, stirred in 3 tablespoons of chèvre because I was out of cream cheese and boom! “Yeah, I just thought the goat cheese would up the tang factor and add a little earthiness. You know what a genius I am in the kitchen…”
Jeni’s Splendid Lemon Cream Ice Cream
(very slightly adapted)
2 or 3 lemons
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons cream cheese (or chevre; even though it was a mistake it worked out with pretty yum results)
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
zest of 2 lemons (reserved from above)
1 vanilla bean (optional, I’m just in love)
So for the syrup you’ll want to zest the lemons in large strips. Squeeze 1/2 a cup of juice (two lemons, in my case) and bring that to a simmer with the sugar, stirring until it’s dissolved. Set aside in the refrigerator until chilled.
Mix 2 tablespoons of milk with the cornstarch until smooth and set aside. Stir the cream cheese (or chèvre) and salt together until smooth and set that aside too.
Combine remaining milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, the inside of one vanilla bean and the lemon zest in a large saucepan. If you do, like me, end up adding the cream cheese in this step, don’t worry. We’ll fix it. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes. Boiling milk makes me antsy, but I trust Jeni entirely so I did it. Remove from heat and whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil and cook while stirring until it thickens slightly. Remove from the heat.
Slowly whisk the cream cheese mixture into the hot milk until it’s smooth. This was when my immersion blender came to the rescue, but the chèvre I used was not bad at all. I’m almost glad I don’t pay much attention to what I’m doing generally!
So here Jeni recommends that you pour the mixture into a Ziploc bag and immerse it into an ice bath. I have…not had luck with this technique. As much as I hate waiting overnight to churn ice cream, I’d rather not lose half the batch out of stupid gosh-darn pin holes.
Remember that lemon syrup from before? Pour the milk mixture into your ice cream maker, and while it’s churning, drizzle the syrup into it.
Freeze in your selected container, and enjoy! I actually topped mine with some citrus caramel — let me tell you, wouldn’t have thought it but lemon and caramel are beautiful together. The sweet accentuates the tart in just the right way. Caramel sauce is relatively easy — water, sugar and butter cooked together, and a bit of cream added towards the end. I also spiked mine with a splash of triple sec. Perfection!