I hesitate to say it, but I think that we may be slowly emerging from this long cold winter. Down here on the south coast, we have been taken aback by the volume and frequency of the snow, and I know even now it is too early to say it is past, merely that we may be over the worst!
The last burst of snow was heralded by the most rapid freeze I have ever experienced, it reminded me of a favourite film, The Ice Storm, and the creeping cracking ice grasping and enrobing everything in its' path. That Wednesday evening, wet rainy roads turned to sheet ice in a matter of minutes and our simple journey from one part of town to another became an epic adventure - sliding backwards down a hill, slipping off the road, into a wall and failing even to get over speed bump due to the lack of momentum and the severity of the ice. Having said all that you might think that our car was written off and we both ended up in neck braces, but no, all these manoeuvres were carried out gracefully at no more than 5 miles per hour, thankfully! The following day delivered an epic walk up iced hills to get to work, I fell over so many times on the way there, far too many times to count during a mere couple of miles walk!
I don't recollect ever spending a full winter sleeping in climbing socks, pj's, thermals and a fleece under a thick wool blanket and a down duvet. Crazy cold, or crazy susceptibility, at least. Whilst I haven't enjoyed the piercing cold it has, for some reason, awakened an interest in icecream. I have found myself thinking often about methods of making, ingredients and flavours. I have a list of recipes to try, but before I do, I thought that I would indulge in a flavour that I hope will be well received at home.
There seems to be a sudden fashion in our house for all things peanut butter related. My husband has always snacked on wholemeal toast with peanut butter and the teen could demolish boxes full of Reese's peanut butter cups given the chance, and I have recently become very fond of a bastardisation (or should I say adaptation?) of the Indonesian salad Gado Gado. This recipe isn't actually that far from the real mccoy, but most closely ressembles the gado gado salad that I remember feasting on at Rasa Sayang in Soho more than twenty years ago. I am not sure how authentic that meal really was though it was definitely a great meal in wonderful company. Isn't it funny how the memory of a good meal sticks with you, even down the years?
Anyway, back to peanuts. They have most recently made an appearance in a chocolate peanut ganache made to fill some not-too-good macarons I made. We decided not to fill them as, although tasty, they were not up to much visually. So with the choc peanut butter ganache on the worktop, I was at a loss for something to do with it. Not for long though, as my ice cream ponderings came flooding back. I mixed up and churned a batch of vanilla ice cream, which in its' naked form is often ignored in our freezer. However I split the mix in half and stirred half a batch of chocolate peanut ganache into half the ice cream before freezing. I have managed to salvage a scraping to photograph whilst the plain vanilla has lingered untouched, so far. I will crunch up the failed batch of chocolate macarons and stir them into this half batch, along with some crushed salted peanuts and grated Galaxy chocolate. I know it won't be hanging round for long after that!
Vanilla ice cream
- 5 egg yolks
- 500g double cream
- 150g castor sugar
- 250g whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (*please see foot note)
- a pinch of sea salt.
Still, if you haven't heeded my warning, here is my method:
- mix the egg yolks together with the vanilla extract in a 1 pint pyrex jug.
- pour the cream, milk and sugar into a thick bottomed pan
- heat the pan gently, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved, this will happen whilst the milk is finger-hot if you use castor sugar.
- pour about 1/4 pint of the just-warm cream mixture into the jug whilst stirring the egg yolks briskly with a fork, as long as the cream is cool the eggs should mix into the cream without cooking
- whilst stirring the pan, pour the egg yolk mix back into the pan.
- put the pan back on to the heat and continue to warm the cream mix over a low heat whilst stirring constantly but gently.
- keep stirring gently as the cream heats up slowly towards boiling, spluttering a little.
- let the cream simmer and continue to stir gently. You should notice the cream thickening gradually, don't stir too vigorously or else the mix can separate.
- after 5 minutes take the pan off the heat. now you want to stop the pan cooking and start cooling the custard down as soon as possible. you can do this by putting the pan in a bowl filled with iced water, unless you are like me and never have enough room in your freezer for the quantities of ice required to do this efficiently.
- the alternative is to fill your washing up bowl about 1/3 full with some cold water and place your pan into the cold water - don't let go of the handle until you are certain that the pan is not floating & make sure that tap is turned off.
- the cold water will begin to cool the ice cream down, change the cold water periodically to speed up the cooling proces. stir periodically to ensure a skin doesn't form (and to help it cool quicker).
- on a cold-ish winter's day it took about 40 minutes for my custard to cool down.
- set up your icecream machine and pour the mixture in to churn as per the machine's instructions.
- if you don't have an ice cream machine you can pour the cream mixture into a 1L freezer box and place in the freezer. Take the ice cream out every 60 minutes, stir thoroughly then replace in the freezer.
- whilst the ice cream is churning, take half a recipe of chocolate peanut ganache and warm very gently in a microwave or bain marie until just melted.
- pour in 50g double cream to thin, then add this sauce to the ice cream in the last 5 minutes of churning (if you making this manually, pour the sauce in when the ice cream is quite thick, give a good stir to distribute it like a raspberry ripple icecream, then freeze for a final hour).
- store the churned icecream in the freezer until ready for use. take it out of the freezer 10-15 minutes before serving to allow it to soften up before serving.
*using vanilla extract - I don't want to be controversial, by all means use a vanilla pod but it does add an extra stage infusing the milk/cream before adding the sugar. I use Nielsen Massey Madagascan vanilla extract and find it excellent in most desserts, especially in sweet cooked/baked products.