risky business

Starting a batch of ice cream one hour before bedtime is risky business: The custard that you just whisked and boiled and infused and boiled again and mixed and boiled again and strained and chilled may very well infiltrate your dreams. If it is your first time EVER making ice cream, and, as you lie in bed forcing your eyelids shut, you cannot pry your mind from the cream that swirled dizzyingly in your pot, you may be particularly susceptible to creamy nighttime reveries. (And, it seems, to thinking and writing in rambly, never ending sentences.) This is all assuming that you can even fall asleep in the first place, what with the knowledge that the custard is at this very moment cooling in the fridge.

And when I say, "you," I mean me. Well, actually, hopefully you too if you try out this recipe and get as much of a kick out of it as I did.

Yes, over the weekend, I made ice cream for the very first time. (While I can't figure out what, precisely, is the difference between making something for the "first time" and making it for the "very first time," I'm convinced that the distinction exists, and that it is an important one.) The exhilaration so close to bedtime was a shock to the system, but there really was no way around it. Only beginning the batch at bedtime would ensure that the custard would be chilled and ready to churn by first thing the next morning. So, that night, I predictably dreamed my ice cream dream: I was in Seattle, on the playground at the elementary school where I used to teach. Right by the jungle gym I sat, cross-legged, in front of an ice cream maker. I poured in the custard, and watched it churn. The best part was that, the next morning, I got to live the dream! (Minus the jungle gym and the mild Seattle weather.)

Thanks to the apple tart already baking in the oven, the kitchen was steadily heating up. I feared that the heat might harm the churning process, so I grabbed the custard and the ice cream maker and marched across the apartment to my tiny office. This wee space, wedged into a corner (but boasting its very own door), is the coldest spot in our home. I like to think of it as my "corner office." Never mind that it's basically just a corner, and not much else. The two outside-facing walls are mostly windows, plenty talented at letting in the winter chill. The floor is made of, well, I'm not really sure what it's made of... Some combination of tiles and concrete, it seems. Whatever it is, it's COLD on things like bare feet and, I figured, ice cream makers.

(By the way, this morning was not the first time that a wee corner office in this building has been used as an extension of the kitchen. Our upstairs neighbors hosted a small herd of people for Thanksgiving, and had no room in their bulging fridge for their brining turkey. They opened up all of the office windows and left the turkey in there in an enormous pot to brine the night away!)
Before long, the custard was a churnin', surrounded by dictionaries in several languages, an over-stuffed bulletin board, and shelf upon shelf of library books. It was a sight to behold. And the bowl of the ice cream maker had no trouble staying good and frozen throughout.

About half an hour later...

cinnamon ice cream

Creamy, dreamy, cinnamon ice cream!

Then, clean up sweet clean up: Licking brownie batter or cookie dough off of a mixing paddle is nice, but when it's an ICE CREAM coated paddle you're licking, it's divine.

Cinnamon Ice Cream
Adapted from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques

I make this ice cream with something called Vietnamese Cinnamon. The truth is, I meant to purchase regular cinnamon, but accidentally grabbed the Vietnamese kind. The label on the bottle claims that it's "the highest quality cinnamon available," so I figured that it couldn't hurt to give it a try. I performed a little taste test to compare the Vietnamese Cinnamon with the not-Vietnamese stuff. There is a distinct difference in flavor. The Vietnamese Cinnamon has a slight bitterness to it. In a good way. Like the bitterness of really good dark chocolate. It has a deep flavor, and is a bit spicier than the cinnamons I've encountered in the past. It is perfect against the sweet creaminess of this ice cream. You can find Vietnamese Cinnamon at Whole Foods right next to the regular cinnamon. (Though, is any cinnamon really "regular?") Cinnamon of any kind will work just fine in this recipe.

2 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy cream
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 (heaping) tsp. ground (Vietnamese) cinnamon
4 extra-large egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar

Place the milk, cream, cinnamon sticks, and ground cinnamon in a medium pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat, cover, and let the flavors infuse about 30 minutes.

Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl. (I do this step in the bowl of a stand mixer to facilitate the constant whisking necessary when gradually adding the cream.) Whisk a few tablespoons of the warm cream mixture into the yolks to temper them. Slowly, add another 1/4 cup or so of the warm cream, whisking to incorporate. At this point, you can add the rest of the cream mixture in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly (or allowing the mixer to whisk constantly for you). Pour the mixture back into the pot and return to the stove.

Cook the custard over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes, stirring with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. The custard will thicken, and when it's done will coat the back of the spatula. Strain it and chill at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. The base should be very cold before you churn it. Process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.


megan said...

Oh, man - I will probably never make it to the level of ice cream-making. But it is such a pleasure to read about it!


Rupinder Bisla said...

you're making ice cream now??

i like vanilla and heath bar crunch, hint hint ;)

jess said...

Hint taken, Rupinder. You just get your sweet self to Cambridge, okay?

You too, Megan! Then you can read about it and eat it, too.

Katie said...

Yum I love cinnamon ice cream!

Kasey said...

Ohh, this sounds like a delicious accompaniment to some gingersnaps!

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