Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Homemade Ice Cream - 2nd Try

My first attempt at ice cream wasn't a total disaster. The flavor was good but it was too icy. I don't have an ice cream maker, which isn't a big deal, but I don't think I did a good enough job of breaking up the ice cream during the freezing process. I also used a recipe without eggs and with more milk than cream which contributed to its less-than-creamy consistency. Higher fat content makes ice cream creamier, so I used eggs this time, and more cream than milk. How strange, more fat = better taste.

Success! The second attempt was much better than the first. It's hard to say whether the ingredients or the process made a bigger difference, but I'm quite certain both changes were necessary. Plus I didn't feel like conducting a high school science experiment with a control and several variables to find out which ingredients and processes had exactly which effect. Nerd alert.

Ok, before I get started - have you ever eaten a concord grape? I hadn't. I like green grapes better, plus concord grapes have seeds which is pretty annoying. But seriously...I tried one before I started making the ice cream, and wow. I'm not kidding, they taste like grape Jolly Ranchers or Blow Pops. I always thought grape candies were gross exaggerations of what real grapes taste like, but not in the case of concord grapes. If you've never tried one buy some while they're in season, or just sneak a taste of one while you're at the farmers market or grocery.

Concord Grape Ice Cream

1 cup pureed concord grapes
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
5 egg yolks

Put a glass or metal 9" x 13" baking dish in the freezer. Puree the grapes in a blender and pour through a fine mesh sieve to discard seeds and big pieces of skin. The puree will be pretty thick, so use a spoon or soft rubber spatula to work the puree through the sieve.

Heat the cream and milk in a saucepan until just starting to boil. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat. Beat the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. After the hot cream/milk has cooled for a few minutes, add to the egg yolks by the spoonful while stirring.

This is called tempering the eggs. Basically you want the cool eggs to be added to the hot liquid, but if you just pour them in they'll cook very quickly and become chunky. So by adding the hot liquid bit by bit you slowly warm them to the point where you can add them to the pan. Add enough cream, spoon by spoon, until it's about equal parts egg yolk and cream. Then add the egg and cream mixture back to the pan and stir until combined.

Reheat the cream/egg mixture over low heat for about 5 minutes, until hot throughout. Add the vanilla and the grape puree and stir to combine.

While the cream mixture reheats, prepare an ice bath - a larger bowl with ice water, and a smaller bowl resting in the ice water. Pour the mixture into the smaller bowl and let cool for about 20 minutes.

Pour into the frozen baking dish and put on a level surface in the freezer.

The first time I made ice cream I waited 45 minutes before breaking it up for the first time, and then at 30-minute intervals after that. I learned that my freezer is very strong so this time I let it freeze for 30 minutes, and mixed it up at 20-minute intervals after that.

Don't be shy when you're breaking up the ice cream. Use a plastic spatula, and really get in there and chop it up, then smear it against the bottom of the dish. You're not going to mess it up by totally destroying the work the freezer has done - that's the whole point. An ice cream maker keeps the ice cream moving (very slowly) while it freezes so ice crystals don't form.

After mixing the ice cream up about 5 times every 20 minutes (or 30 minutes depending on your freezer), scoop it into a tupperware and let it finish freezing. So you're looking at roughly two and a half hours.

I give it a good to very good rating. The consistency was much improved compared to the first time. As for the flavor...I probably could have used another half a cup of grape puree and a bit more sugar. I didn't want to go overboard on the sugar since the grapes are already pretty sweet, but it did need a little more. Last time I made pumpkin spice ice cream and the flavor was perfect: 1 cup unsweetened pureed pumpkin, 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice. Mix the pumpkin and the spice together and add when reheating the cream after adding the eggs. And I used 2/3 cups of sugar that time. I'm sure I'll have more posts about different flavors in the future now that I've found a basic recipe and process that I like.

I didn't stop with making the concord grape ice cream...just wait until you see what I did with it!

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