Two posts ago, we talked about how easy it is to make homemade ice cream, and how much better it tastes than store-bought. We talked about how most flavors are a variation of your basic vanilla, and how you can use that basic ice cream recipe to make all kinds of other flavors – like mint, Earl Grey, basil, cinnamon, lavender, etc.
Then in the last post we talked about making fruit ice cream, and how you can use a basic fruit ice cream recipe to make all kinds of fruit flavors. And then, knowing what you know from those two posts, how you can combine flavor infusions and fruit cooked to a jam to make almost any flavor you want – like strawberry cinnamon, blackberry peppercorn, gingered peach, lemon lemon verbena, etc, etc, etc.
In this post, I’m going to tell you about how, experimenting with cherry ice cream with chocolate chips, I confirmed all of the above.
(I fully realize that I’ve probably gone overboard with all this ice cream-ness, and that this post in particular might get way too into it for many of you. If you’re someone who likes to experiment in the kitchen, to explore what works and what doesn’t, and why – or if you’re just an ice cream-aholic like me – read on. If not, it’s perfectly a-okay if you don’t.)
It all started when I saw an online recipe for cherry ice cream with chocolate chips – otherwise known as Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, but since the name is probably trademarked I probably shouldn’t use it – one of my most favorite flavors. The recipe involved steeping milk with fresh cherries, then pureeing the mixture, then adding cream. This made the ice cream “base” which then got cooled and processed in an ice cream maker, with chocolate chips stirred in at the end.
Right away, I was suspicious. The recipe didn’t involve cooking the water out of the cherries, nor did it involve cooking the ice cream base with egg yolks, both of which I’ve come to believe are important in avoiding icy ice cream. But I was also tempted – because a) it sounded quicker and easier, and b) I wondered if the cherry ice cream flavor would be better with raw cherries versus cherries cooked to a jam.
So I tried it. And you know what? I was right. It was icy. Not inedible, but less than ideal. And if you’re going to make homemade ice cream, don’t you want it to be ideal?
Of course you do.
But now I was on a mission and wanted to know – can you ever use uncooked fruit in homemade ice cream? Isn’t there a way to have fresh fruit flavor without the iciness?
I consulted my friend Brigid, pastry chef extraordinaire and uncontested Sorbet Queen (if you want to know about that, or about making homemade sorbet, read this post).
Brigid suggested a hybrid idea: try macerating the cherries (combining cut-up cherries with sugar and lemon juice, then setting them aside for an hour or two) as if I was going to cook them into a jam, but then strain out the cherries and only cook the liquid, reducing the water, rather than cooking the whole cherry mixture. Since maceration draws out moisture, she theorized, maybe it’d be enough that the cherries wouldn’t become icy in the ice cream.
Get it? Uncooked fruit, but cooked-to-get-rid-of-the-water fruity liquids.
So I tried it. I macerated the fruit, I strained out the liquid, I cooked the liquid until it was thick and syrupy, I chilled both the cherries and the reduced cherry liquid, and I mixed them together with a vanilla ice cream base (my Basic Ice Cream Recipe, avec egg yolks). Then I froze the whole thing in my ice cream maker, adding some chopped chocolate at the end.
So I tried one more batch, going back to my Basic Fruit Ice Cream recipe, combining a basic vanilla base, cherries cooked to a jam, and chopped chocolate.
(Here’s the final recipe, for Cherry Ice Cream with Chocolate Chips, where all of what I’ve been sharing in these ice cream posts comes together.)
The moral of the story? Sometimes, in an effort to learn something new, you confirm what you already know.
And if you get to eat a lot of ice cream in the process – some of which was better than others, but none was poison – all the better.