Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Strawberry ice cream

Ever since recently acquiring a copy of Nigella's 'Forever Summer' on DVD and watching her make strawberry ice cream, I have been wanting to make some myself, which is funny, as I don't even like strawberry ice cream.  Perhaps I should clarify, I don't like commercial strawberry ice cream, or strawberry flavoured milk, or any of those artificially flavoured products.  To me they are overly sweet, and taste nothing like real strawberries.  So it was the possibility of making an ice cream that actually tasted like fresh strawberries that appealed to me.  I decided however not to go with Nigella's recipe, simply because it used 10 egg yolks (to 1L of milk and cream), and instead found a recipe that uses 5 yolks (to 750ml of milk and cream).  This recipe is from 'Iced' (edited by Katri Hilden and Emma Hutchinson).

The recipe calls for the pureed strawberries to be sieved to remove the seeds (as did quite a few of the recipes I found before settling on this one).  I don't really understand why.  To me, strawberry seeds are pretty inoffensive, and so what is the point of removing them?  To make your homemade strawberry ice cream look more like a commercially prepared one?  To remove the evidence that it had in fact been made from actual fruit?  Nonetheless, I attempted to comply, even though I was pretty certain my finest strainer would not be fine enough to remove strawberry seeds.  I was right - strawberry seeds were going through, and all it was really doing was holding back some of the pulp which would be needed for flavour, so I gave up and just put all the strawberry puree in, unsieved.

The flavour of this was really nice, and hooray - did actually taste of real strawberries!  My husband said it was like eating fresh strawberries and cream, but in frozen form.  The only thing I would say though, is it is not the creamiest ice cream I have ever eaten.  Having been churned in the ice cream machine, it wasn't icy either, just not as creamy as I would have liked.  I think this is partly my own fault.  The custard uses half cream, half milk, and all I had to hand, indeed all I ever have to hand, is low fat and skim milk.  So I used low fat, and normally this doesn't seem to detract from the finished product too much.  In this case though, I think it did, and I think it is because of the combination of the lower fat milk, plus the volume of strawberries once frozen is obviously going to add more iciness than creaminess to the finished product, so therefore perhaps needs a creamier base custard to counterbalance.  All the recipes I've found similarly use half milk, half cream, so perhaps merely using full fat milk would have made a difference.  I will have to try it next time and see, or else increase the proportion of cream to milk.  Nigella's recipe with the 10 egg yolks would make for a thicker custard, which would help the creaminess, but then it also contains twice as much strawberries.  I think it does also help if one is patient and does let the ice cream soften a little before hoeing in!  In any case, this cooking experience has redeemed strawberry ice cream for me, which I previously avoided (except in those curiously compelling strawberry sundaes sold at the Ekka - Brisbane's yearly show). 

Strawberry ice cream

Makes 1L

375ml milk
375ml cream
115g caster sugar
5 egg yolks
250g very ripe strawberries, pureed and sieved

Heat the milk, cream and sugar together in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the milk is nearly at boiling point (but do not allow to come to the boil).  Remove from heat.

Whisk the egg yolks together and then add 1/4 of a cup of the milk mixture and whisk to combine.  Whisk in the remaining milk mixture, then tip back into the saucepan.  Stir constantly over medium-low heat until the mixture has thickened sufficiently to coat the back of a spoon.  One way to test if the custard is ready, is to dip the spoon into the custard, pull it out of the mixture, and using your finger, draw a line through the mixture on the back of the spoon.  If the mixture is thick enough that the two halves remain separate, then the custard is ready.  If the mixture runs off the spoon, or the two halves run together, return the pan to the heat and keep stirring and retest in another couple of minutes.  Do not allow the mixture to boil.  Once ready, tip the custard into a container, cover the surface with cling film (this prevents the surface of the custard from forming a skin), allow to cool slightly, and then place in the fridge to chill completely.

Stir the pureed strawberries into the chilled custard and churn in an ice cream machine.  Otherwise, transfer the mixture to shallow metal trays and freeze, whisking every few hours to break up the forming ice crystals until the mix is frozen and smooth.  Freeze for 5 hours or overnight.  Allow to soften in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.

custard and strawberry puree
combined custard and puree before churning
the ice cream immediately after churning

Monday, September 20, 2010

Coffee toffee meringues

This recipe is from Nigella's new book 'Kitchen' that just came out this month.  I made the meringues to use up the egg whites I had left over from making custard base for strawberry ice cream.  I didn't have the hazelnuts (which are optional) and left out the Frangelico (which I do have but wanted to keep it non-alcoholic for myself and my 2.5 yr old son) - though I think both additions would be yummy).  I don't think you need anywhere near 600ml of cream!  I got 8 meringues out of the recipe, and I only had about 150ml of cream, which was enough to top 4 meringues, so 300ml would probably be enough, depending on how much cream you put on each one.  My oven is fan-forced - I didn't reduce the temperature to compensate, and the meringues were done after 35 minutes.  Nigella says just to put the 'merest dribble' of sauce on, which I would agree with, so even though it doesn't make much, you'll probably end up with leftovers.

Coffee toffee meringues

Makes 8-10

For the meringues:
200g caster sugar
50g light brown sugar
2 tsp of instant espresso powder (mine was a bit granular, so I crushed it to a powder first)
pinch cream of tartar
4 egg whites
100g toasted chopped hazelnuts, for topping (optional)

For the toffee sauce:
15g butter
75g golden syrup
25g soft light brown sugar
60ml double cream
2 tsp Frangelico hazelnut liqueur (optional)

For the filling:
600ml double cream

To make the meringues:
Preheat oven to 140C / gas mark 1 and combine caster sugar, brown sugar, coffee powder and cream of tartar in a bowl, and set aside. 
Whisk the egg whites in a dry grease-free bowl until soft peaks start to form.  Begin to sprinkle  in the sugar mix 1 tbs at a time while still whisking, until you have a glossy thick meringue.  This process is much easier with an electric beater, or better still, a freestanding mixer.  You need to allow adequate time between each addition for the sugar to dissolve.  Undissolved sugar in meringue is what causes 'bleeding' - where you end up with syrup running out of the meringue.  You can test whether the sugar is dissolved by rubbing a little of the meringue between your fingers - there should be no graininess.
Line a baking sheet.  Spoon out dollops of meringue (about 2 big dessert spoonfuls) to give roughly 8-10 6cm circles.  Spike or fluff the tops to give texture.  I used 2 spoons to transfer blobs of mixture to the tray (one to scoop up some meringue, one to ease it off the spoon onto the tray), then used my clean finger tip to shape them.  Sprinkle the top of each meringue with 1/2 tsp of chopped hazelnuts, saving the rest for serving.
Put in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, by which time the meringues should be dry on the outside, but still gooey in the middle, and a little fragile to touch.  Take them out of the oven, but do not remove them from the baking sheet.

To make the toffee sauce:
Melt the butter, golden syrup and light brown sugar in a pan over low heat, swirling gently (but not stirring) occasionally, then bring to a boil and let it bubble for 2 minutes.  Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the 60ml of cream and liqueur.  Pour into a small heatproof jug and leave to cool.

To serve:
Whip the cream until firm but not stiff.
Crush a dent into the top of each meringue (the shells will splinter a bit), then split it a little and fill from above with a dollop of cream.  Drizzle on some of the sauce and sprinkle with some of the reserved chopped hazelnuts.

Meringues can be made 1 day ahead and kept in an airtight container.  Sauce can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge covered with Glad Wrap.  Remove from the fridge 1-2 hours before needed to allow it to come to room temperature.

meringues prior to baking
after baking

butter, golden syrup and brown sugar mixture bubbling
toffee sauce after the addition of the cream