Friday, November 30, 2007

fennel ice cream

fennel ice cream

I’m patting myself on the back right now–no, not for finishing NaBlo, because I think we have already established that an 86 percent effort doesn’t count–but because I have finally made the fennel ice cream from the October Gourmet and it is absolutely wonderful. You have no idea how many things have had the balderdash to get in my way.

It actually starts long before October, when I was trying to make the roasted banana ice cream from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop. In a small kitchen with one counter, I rarely take pictures of my mise, as it is simply disgraceful. Things are piled and messy and muddled and as long as I can find a clear corner to work on, I excel in ignoring everything else. We all have our skills, non? This usually works for me (ahem) except for that day that it didn’t, and the ice cream maker, all of its parts and sticky, delicious banana batter ended up splayed across the kitchen floor, breaking the plastic paddle that churns the ice cream. Alex and I ordered a replacement part ($8 piece, $9 S&H) from Cuisinart that night which took EIGHT weeks to arrive, abruptly halting my ice cream making season in its tracks.

fennel

Of course, now that I have the part, its 44 degrees out but I can’t help it: I’ve been craving ice cream left and right, so when a friend of mine who is a pastry chef and makes the most wonderful, innovative ice creams raved about Gourmet’s fennel ice cream, I had to make it. This was my chance to make cool ice creams like her! Yet on Wednesday night, it turned out that my fennel seeds, ugh, well, had made some icky friends and my whole effort went in the garbage.

And this is usually the point I consider “a sign”–it’s no longer ice cream weather, the fennel seeds were cursed, oh and nobody I know really likes the fennel flavor–and usually quit. But I didn’t this time and I’m so glad: this ice cream is incredible. Unbearably delicious. The fennel flavor hangs out faintly in the background, as it should, but the creamy-chewiness that can only come from ice cream made with an abundance of egg yolks and full-fat milk and cream can achieve. It’s a delight. And even if not a single other person eats it this weekend (oh, but they will–just wait until I tell you what I am pairing, or should I say pear-ing, it with), frankly: more for me! Really, it is all part of my master plan.

fennel ice cream

One year ago: Zucchini, Ham, Basil and Ricotta Fritters

And also: People, do you really think I boil rabbits? Hey, I don’t blame you for not reading to the end; heck, my attention span is so short I’ve looked at two different websites just while typing this sentence. But rabbits? Come on. Just because I like wearing white in the winter and saw, you know, that movie the night before doesn’t make it so.

Fennel Ice Cream
Gourmet, October 2007

Active time: 30 min Start to finish: 2 1/2 hr

Makes 1 quart

1 2/3 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar, divided
4 large egg yolks

Bring cream and fennel seeds just to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan, then cover and let steep about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring milk, 1/2 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring.

Whisk together yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl, then add milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking. Return mixture to medium saucepan and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until mixture coats back of spoon and registers 175°F on an instant-read thermometer (do not let boil). Immediately strain custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl, then quick-chill by setting bowl in an ice bath and stirring occasionally until cool, about 15 minutes.

Strain fennel cream through fine-mesh sieve into custard, pressing on solids. Continue to chill in ice bath until custard is very cold, then freeze in ice cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, about 1 hour.

Note: Custard with fennel cream can be chilled, covered, in refrigerator up to 24 hours.


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