Hands down, my favorite dessert has always been a dish of good vanilla ice cream drizzled with honey.
Kinda boring for a food writer, right?
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily consume your fancy final courses. Give me your tortes and tartes, your cheese plate composÃ© with matched dessert wines, your convoluted, sugary sculptures surrounded by foam, gold leaf, and three kinds of garnish.
The dessert that I most enjoyâ€”and have for yearsâ€”is a dish of rich, creamy vanilla draped with a spoonful or two of good honey. Sitting barefoot in the living room close to midnight. With a glass of wine, my two little wolves, and Family Guy reruns on cable.
There’s just something so delicious about the combination of creamy cold vanilla and honey, first thick and chewy when it hits the ice cream, then melding together as it melts.
Nectar and ambrosia? Absolutely, in my book.
For someone who’s currently writing a cookbook about frozen desserts, you’d think I’d be sick of ice cream already.
It hasn’t happened yet. I’m not gonna hold my breath, either. (Get ready for lots of B-roll recipes that didn’t make the final cut for the manuscript.)
This honey-infused ice cream has always been one of my favorite flavors. I actually get a little territorial about it. (I’ll stop just short of pulling a Cleopatra and filling the tub with the stuff.)
Especially when a recipe only calls for 4 or 5 of them. Use milk & cream from the farm down the road, plus local honey, and your ice cream will be that much more amazing. I even used my heirloom vanilla extract, which I’ve had going since 2002.
For this particular batch, I used what I had in the fridge, which was a combination of those things. The milk came from Richardson’s, a local dairy.
I used the honey I’m currently sweetest on (far from local, I know): Desert Mesquite. Find it at Trader Joe’s. It’s not flowery or cloyingly sweet. There’s almost a smokiness to it. Their brand is also pretty inexpensive, as big pots of honey go.
Now, you can make ice cream without an ice cream maker and candy thermometer, but take it from me: Both will make your life a lot easier.
Get a candy thermometer. You’ll thank me later. You can find them at Target, Walmart, etc., or Amazon. They’re like $13 or so, and are well worth the investment.
The candy thermometer is going to help you know when the custard for your ice cream is cooked. (So no more of that imprecise, “cook until it coats the back of a spoon” business. Sure, your custard will do that, too. When it hits 170 degrees.)
So how’s the book manuscript coming?
I’m wrapping up the first draft now (insanely quick, right?), and am so, so, so happy with it. I’m sorry I’ve been away, but recipe development and writing (on top of my full-time day job) have kept me hopping.
Over the last two months, I’ve made literally hundreds of quarts of frozen treats, from ice cream and gelato to sorbet and frozen cocktails. I’ve worked my way through broken custards and disastrous flavor combos. I’ve even had to sweat through a couple of power outages in the dog-days of summer, crossing my fingers that the juice would come back on before all my test batches melted.
I’m stoked to share some of the recipes that didn’t make it into the book with you. Stay tuned.
Milk & Honey Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart
6 egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup honey
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
Separate the eggs
Grab your eggs. Separate them, using a fancy egg separator, or your hand if you don’t mind getting a bit gooey. Save those whites for up to a day in the fridge. (Use them to make an insanely good omelet, an angel food cake, or homemade meringues.)
To separate an egg, crack an egg into your (very clean) paw. Let the white drip through your fingers into a bowl. Toss the yolk into another bowl.
Beat the yolks well. Set them aside for a minute while you deal with the cream and milk.
Scald the milk and cream
Put the heavy cream and milk in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot.
Set the pot on the stove over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it just starts to steam and bubble at the edges. Whatever you do, don’t let it boil.
While you’re waiting for the milk to heat up, grab a large bowl or pan. (I almost always use a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.) Pour the honey into it and set aside.
Fill a larger bowl or pan with ice and set it aside. You want the first bowl/pan to be able to fit inside the bowl/pan with the ice. This will make your ice bath.
Put your strainer with it. You’ll want both close at hand once the custard is cooked.
Temper the egg yolks
Take the warm mixture off the heat. Grab those beaten egg yolks.
Slowly (and I mean slowly, or you’ll wind up with a horrible bowl of scrambled eggs), drizzle the hot mixture into the beaten yolks, whisking constantly.
Do this until you’ve added most of the hot mixture to the yolks. This is called tempering, which basically means you’re raising the temperature of the yolks slowly, so they don’t solidify.
When you’ve added most of the hot mixture to the yolks, transfer it back to the pot.
Cook the custard to 170 degrees
Slap your trusty candy thermometer on the inside of the pot and stick it back on the stove over medium heat. Don’t let the thermometer touch the bottom of the pot, or you can get a false reading. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 170 degrees.
So you’re not scrambling, your counter should look something like this. (Custard cooking, strainer, bowl/pan with honey, ice bath off to the side.)
When the custard reaches 170 degrees, yank it off the heat. (Don’t let it go higher. It will start to separate quickly and will get a really strong, egg-y flavor.)
Pour the hot custard immediately through your strainer into the bowl/pan with the honey in it. The strainer will catch any bits of cooked egg that may have formed.
Whisk to incorporate the honey.
Whisk in the vanilla.
Set the bowl/pan with the custard in the bowl/pan filled with ice. Whisk until the mixture cools to room temp. (My apologies, my pics with the ice bath didn’t come out at all. I was shooting in the late afternoon and the light near my sink was dodgy.)
Taste it at this point. This is what your ice cream will taste like. Adjust the flavors now if need be. (Add more honey if you want it sweeter, etc. Don’t add more than 4 Tablespoons total of vanilla extract.)
Pop the mixture in the fridge to chill completely, about 4-6 hours. You can cheat and try to flash cool it in the freezer. Just keep a close eye on it so it chills, but doesn’t freeze.
When it’s cold, it will have thickened considerably.
Process the ice cream in your machine
When the mixture has chilled completely, process it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
And your ice cream maker will do the rest of the work.
When it’s done, you’ll have something that’s thick but not frozen solid. This is just about the best soft-serve you’ll ever have, so if you’re inclined, scoop a big bowl and go to town.
Transfer it to a freezer-safe container.
Freeze overnight to let it firm up completely. (And that’s it! You just made ice cream!)
Serve & enjoy!
This ice cream goes great with a big cup of tea and some shortbread cookies or fresh berries. Enjoy!
(We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog posts.)