Ice Cream anyone? How about Brandied Sour Cherries, Chocolate Chunk and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream?

I was riding home on the train recently during which time I got a phone call from Jon.  “Hey meet me at the 38th Street Station”, he said.  Pourquoi I inquired?  We need to go downtown to pick up 23 dozen eggs from our farmer friends, Curt and Paul.  23 dozen eggs?  Immediately visions of ice cream popped into my head.  The reason for this “sugar plum” thought is thanks to my friend Zoë François and her recent delicious looking post for making, “The Best Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream“.

Though, we will be distributing many eggs to friends, who also enjoy the golden organic yolks and sturdy whites, we will be left with plenty.  Therefore, using almost a dozen to make an ice cream base will not even make a dent in our storehouse.  I also had a quart of sour cherries that I dried last year still in the freezer.  These are the cherries from Maple Leaf Orchards, Spring Valley, WI, which by the way, will be at the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market, July 23, 2011.  Anyway, I pulled out some, made a quick simple syrup in which to simmer them and then added some ameretto for soaking them.

Okay, note that if have looked at Zoë’s blog via the link above, I make my ice cream base slightly different than she makes her base.  Whereas, she adds the sugar to the milk/cream mixture, I whisk the sugar into the egg yolks and then temper them with the hot milk.

What I have heard is that adding the sugar to the milk/cream helps in preventing the mixture from boiling over. Adding the sugar to the yolks, helps in preventing the yolks from scrambling when the hot milk/cream is added.   Personally, I would rather keep an eye on the milk and take more precautions in not scrambling the eggs.  Either way, one of the steps will require a watchful eye.  However, you will get the same results.

After it was all said and done (making the ice cream I mean), I’ve come to the conclusion that there are at least two schools of thought as far as sweets.  The first school is for folks who enjoy tart and sweet together.  The other is for people who enjoy only sweet.  If you use dried sour cherries, as I did,  you will be in the first school.  You will taste the sweet of the ice cream and chocolate.  Then, you will bite into the cherry, which will cause you to want to take another bite of the ice cream to taste the sweetness again. Is that really such a bad thing?  If you are in the second school, I would recommend, instead, using dried sweet cherries.  These would be folks that have a serious sweet tooth.

Brandied Cherries:
4 ounces dried sour or sweet cherries
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
½ cup brandy or ameretto

Bring the water, sugar and cinnamon to a boil in a small saucepan.  (The goal here is to rehydrate the cherries before all the liquid evaporates.  Therefore, a saucepan is favored over a sauté pan.)  Add cherries and simmer 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the brandy or ameretto.  Let cool, topping off with extra Brandy if needed.  I didn’t need to add any additional this time.  Cover and allow to steep over night or longer.  Strain the cherries from the juice just before ready to use.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Base:
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 large vanilla bean, scraped
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
10 large egg yolks (180 grams)

4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks (reserved for the final step)

Combine milk and cream in heavy medium saucepan.  Split the bean down the center and lay open two halves.  Taking the back of the knife, scrape the seeds from vanilla bean.  Add the seeds and the bean to the milk mixture.  Bring to a simmer, which will take about 5 minutes.  Don’t walk away as there is nothing worse than cleaning-up cream that has boiled over the pot.  Remove from heat and let steep for up to an hour.  The flavor will become more pronounced the longer it sits.  If the mixture has cooled bring it back to a simmer before proceeding.

Whisk together the yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.  What you don’t want to do is pour sugar onto eggs and then not stir together, as the sugar will draw out the moisture from the eggs, causing bits of the egg to become hard and will never dissolve.

After the cream has come to a simmer, remove from the heat and whisk a small amount of cream into the egg mixture, adding enough cream to warm the eggs.  Once the eggs are warm, add them back into the pot with the remaining cream.  If you ever see the phrase, “tempering the mixture”, this is what you are doing.

With a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon, (one that has not been used to sauté garlic) gently stir the custard over low heat until it thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when your finger is drawn across, about 5 minutes.  Do not let it boil!

Have an ice bath at the ready.  Strain the custard through a fine mesh strainer or chinois into a bowl.  Set the bowl into the ice bath and stir to cool.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.

For the most delicious results, allow the custard to sit in a refrigerator for anywhere from 6 to 12 hours.  If you want only vanilla ice cream freeze this custard in an Ice Cream Maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you are adventuring beyond vanilla, churn the custard in the ice cream maker.  Then, scrape the churned ice cream into a freezer-proof bowl.  Mix in the strained brandied cherries and chocolate chunks.  Cover and place bowl in the freezer until good and hard.

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