Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Maple Syrup Ice Cream

One of the things I'm really enjoying about our stay in Pontlevoy is our colleagues. There are two French teachers, two history teachers, an art history teacher, an English teacher, and Sami. The group ranges in age, nationality, and gender, but we seem to mesh very well. This is evinced by the social events we like to participate in: dinner at our house, drinks at someone else's house, a trip to the market, and of course, the potluck.
Last week was a potluck: everyone brought a dish according to their culinary means and abilities. There was a ton of cheese (but not too much!), too much bread, a delicious roast boar, salad, and two, no make that three desserts. And of course multiple bottles of wine. And after dinner half the group talked heavy-duty philosophy and the other half fled to the kitchen to "help with the dishes." Delightful.
So I brought two of the three desserts: my favorite apple crumble and this maple syrup ice cream.
Ah, maple syrup. It's surprisingly easy to get here, but expensive. I happen to have imported my own. I think there's about one-third of a jug left. We like pancakes. I therefore cut the recipe in half, so that I would only need one cup of precious Canadian-ness.

I always forget that ice cream takes a long time to chill. I didn't have that time, so I cooled the custard (maple syrup plus egg yolks) in an ice water bath.

One cup of maple syrup seems like a lot until you fold it into 2-1/2 cups of whipped cream!

So this was my ice cream maker. I was a bit worried about this part of it. I don't have one here, and I didn't feel like buying one for 65 Euros. So I went to my ice cream guru and found out how to do without an ice cream maker. It turns out to be easy, assuming you remember to check on your ice cream every 30 minutes. So I turned on the freezer upstairs in Claire's room, popped my pan of ice cream in...and forgot about it. For about 3 hours. When I got to it, it was frozen solid. I tried many tactics, including scraping with a fork and processing it in a food processor. Turned out that letting it thaw a bit was the best technique...huh.
Long story short: this was delicious. It's not too sweet but has nice maple-y flavor, and it went well with the crumble. Our Canadian colleague told me that it reminded her of home. The art history teacher, an 80-year-old former priest, asked me to run away with him so that I can make ice cream for him every day. And the English teacher, who has problems digesting starches, just kept dipping her spoon into the dish. Unlike my brownies, unlike my cake, there was no ice cream left over. Not a drop. Success!
Here's the recipe, if you want to get some indecent proposals...

Sugarbush Maple Ice Cream

3 egg yolks
good pinch salt
1 c. maple syrup (the darker, the better)
2-1/2 c. (20 oz.) whipping cream
1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 t. almond extract

Don't forget to get your ice cream freezer ready, if required. Put a pan of water (the bottom of a double boiler or a saucepan that your mixing bowl will fit over) over medium-low heat to simmer. Now in a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks and salt until they're thick and pale, about 5 minutes or so. Then put the maple syrup in a Pyrex measuring cup and microwave until it's just boiling--it took just about 2 minutes in mine. You'll want to watch it carefully so that it doesn't boil over. Then start beating the egg yolks again while you pour in the hot syrup in a thin, steady stream. Make sure that's all well beaten (scrape the sides), and then put the mixing bowl over the simmering water and heat, stirring, until it reaches 178 on a candy thermometer (this took me at least 10 minutes, though Maida says 5). Take the mixing bowl off the heat and somehow get the mixture cooled down completely. You could let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate or freeze it, or you could put the bowl in a larger bowl full of ice water and cool it down that way.
Now that you feel your custard is cool enough, get ready to whip a whole lot of cream. If you have the stand mixer with the whisk attachment, get that going with all that cream, along with the vanilla and almond extracts. You want to get soft, not stiff peaks. Then gradually fold the maple custard into the whipped cream. When that's all mixed together, freeze it however your ice cream maker works. Enjoy alone, with candied nuts, or with your favorite fruit dessert.

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