Ice Cream How-To: Keep Fruit from Becoming Ice Blocks

Creamy, soft-frozen blueberries = Delicious. Frozen solid blueberry ice cubes = blech, just blech.

Creamy, soft-frozen blueberries = Delicious. Frozen solid blueberry ice cubes = blech, just blech.

We’ve all had it – delicious, creamy ice cream that tastes like a dream come true…Until you bite into a frozen chunk of fruit that has the flavor of an ice cube that’s been sitting in the bottom of the freezer for 3 months. There has to be a way to get that fresh fruit flavor without these ice blocks, right?

Yes!! There is!!

The secret: Cook the fruit with just a little bit of sugar.

I generally estimate about 1/4 cup of sugar for a pint of fruit. Heat them together either on the stovetop or roast in the oven, just until the sugar melts. If you’re cooking it on the stove, the fruit will become slightly syrupy. Usually takes about 5 minutes over medium heat. If you’re roasting your fruit in the oven (GREAT for strawberries), cook them at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Now you may be wondering, how does this work? Is it really so simple? Here’s the thing. Fruit is full of water. That’s what makes it so juicy and yummy. But if you just add all of that water-filled fruit to your ice cream base and freeze it, you get fruit-shaped ice cubes because the water doesn’t have anywhere to go. It’s almost like mixing oil and water – the water just stays all by itself and refuses to get all friendly with those ice cream particles. So what does sugar do? It acts almost like a glue when heated up with the fruit. The water in fruit LOVES sugar and basically gives it a big ole hug. And guess what!! Cream loves sugar too!! It’s like a group hug!! (Clearly I am NOT a scientist). So the sugar helps the water mingle with the cream and keeps it from freezing solid. It’s a beautiful thing, really. 🙂

Now get on out there and make some yummy, fruity ice cream!

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Banana Ice Cream with Curry-Candied Cashews: Cotton-Top Tamarins

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I was so excited the other day when I came home and found this:

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While these bananas may look rather mundane to most people, my husband hates over-ripe bananas. I was planning on make this ice cream last week, but the ripe bananas were gone by the time I got home from work. But luckily this time I caught them before they were extradited from my kitchen. 🙂 To prepare these for the ice cream, I sliced them both, sprinkled with a little brown sugar, and roasted in the oven until the sugar was melted and starting to bubble (about 10-15 minutes). Once cool, puree them in a food processor or blender and set aside.

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So of course, bananas will work perfectly with the adorable Cotton-Top Tamarins at Animal Kingdom (yes, I know it’s a generalization). Honestly, when these guys are active we could stand and watch them for hours.  But then I started to wonder what I could pair with the bananas to make it fit better in Animal Kingdom. I thought I would be very scientific with this and research the Cotton-Top Tamarin. Turns out, they are mostly found in Columbia, South America. Here I was expecting them to be from Asia (mostly because I’m pretty sure my mom hangs out at their habitat while we ride Expedition Everest). And unfortunately, the main spices and flavors of Columbia weren’t really in line with what I was thinking for this ice cream.

But I am intrigued by the flavors found throughout Animal Kingdom, so I decided to infuse some of the spices found throughout the park. Behold, the creation of the Candied-Curried Cashews.

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These glorious little morsels are a mix of brown sugar and spices that are pan roasted just until the sugar melts. They have a little kick to them but aren’t too spicy. More on that later.

The base for this ice cream actually is a little lighter than normal, using only one cup of heavy cream. You get a very similar creaminess from the bananas, so I replaced the extra cream with milk. Otherwise, the base is the same as a regular sweet cream base, just add the pureed bananas when the base is finished. The cashews get layered in after the base is churned.

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So what does this crazy combination taste like? When you first take a bit you get the smooth, fruitiness of the bananas and the crunch of the cashews. The curry flavor is very slight, but then you end up with a bit of a tingly heat afterwards, which is both balanced and slightly heightened by the milkfat in the cream.

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It’s a perfect pair that just screams Animal Kingdom, and will remind you of those fun and feisty Cotton-Top Tamarins.

Enjoy!

Banana Ice Cream with Curry-Candied Cashews

Curry-Candied Cashews:

1 cup cashews (pieces & halves work fine)

3 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. curry powder

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. tumeric

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium saute pan and cook over medium heat until sugar begins to melt. Remove from heat and spread out over a piece of wax paper to cool. Set aside.

Banana Ice Cream Base:

2 over-ripe bananas

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 cup heavy cream

2-1/2 cups whole milk

3/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp. corn syrup

3 egg yolks

Salt

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Slice bananas, sprinkle with brown sugar, and cook in 375 degree oven until the sugar is melted and bubbly, 10-15 minutes. Let cool, then puree in a blender or food processor. Set aside.

Combine milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and salt. Remove cream mixture from heat and, whisking constantly, slowly add about one cup of the hot cream to the prepared egg yolks. Slowly add the tempered egg yolks back to the pot with the remaining cream mixture, stirring the whole time. Return to low heat and cook until slightly thickened (about 5 minutes), stirring often. Remove from heat and pour into a chilled bowl. Stir in the banana puree and vanilla extract. Cool completely and chill. Pour into canister of ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer’s recommendations. When finished, layer base into freezer container with the curry-candied cashews, ending with a smattering of cashews. Freeze at least 4 hours in the coldest part of your freezer. Sprinkle with additional cashews when serving, if desired.

THE Creamiest Strawberry Ice Cream: 1900 Park Fare

Ok guys, get ready. Because this, this is a recipe you’re going to want to keep. Honestly, if I had to pick just one ice cream to eat for the rest of my life, I think this may be it.

And, the recipe is based on the Chilled Strawberry Soup served at 1900 Park Fare at Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort, so you know it has to be good. 🙂

Fresh, ripe strawberries

Fresh, ripe strawberries

Have you ever tried the strawberry soup? It is absolutely indulgent, creamy, sweet and fresh. Which clearly makes it perfect to churn into some ice cream, right? The ice cream (and the soup) is filled with juicy, sweet, ripe strawberries (try to get locally grown ones if available), and sweet cream, as well as the unexpected addition of sour cream. The sour cream helps add to the creamy body of the ice cream and also adds a little tang to help balance out the sweetness.

Possibly even better in a Mickey Mouse casserole :)

Possibly even better in a Mickey Mouse casserole 🙂

Before you start the ice cream, you’ll want to hull and slice a pint of strawberries, toss with some sugar, and roast in the oven. The roasting is important because it helps to concentrate the flavor, evaporates some of the extra water in the berries, and helps bind the sugar to the berries so they don’t end up as hard, frozen chunks in the ice cream. Once the berries are cool, put them in the blender and pulse a few times – don’t over-blend them, you still want some pieces, but no big chunks. You’ll have more of this puree than you’ll need for the ice cream, but feel free to save the extra sauce to top this, or any, ice cream.

The base ice cream base is the typical sweet cream, but with slightly less milk than normal. Once the base is cooked, you’ll slowly whisk it into the sour cream (I like to do a little at a time to avoid chunks), stir in the strawberry puree, and chill completely.

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It may be hard to resist eating it at this point, since it’s pretty much the Chilled Strawberry Soup that you’ll get at 1900 Park Fare.

Then you just pour it into the base of your ice cream machine, freeze according to manufacturer’s suggestions, and freeze in the coldest part of your freezer for at least 4 hours. But to be honest, I like this one best when it’s still pretty soft. Almost half ice cream, half strawberry soup.

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Enjoy!

Creamiest Strawberry Ice Cream

Strawberry Puree:

1 pint strawberries (locally grown if possible)

1/3 cup sugar

Hull and slice strawberries, toss with sugar, and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes. Let cool.

Sour Cream Base:

1-1/2 cups whole milk

1-1/2 cups heavy cream

3/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp. corn syrup

3 egg yolks

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup pureed berries

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tsp. vanilla

In a large pot, bring the cream, milk, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil and cook for five minutes. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the salt. Slowly add about 1 cup of the hot cream mixture to the egg yolks, whisking the whole time. Return the egg and cream mixture to the pot, slowly, and return to low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is slightly thickened (about 5 minutes).

Measure sour cream into a large bowl and add vanilla. Add part of the hot cream base and stir well until incorporated. Slowly add the remainder of the base to the bowl with the sour cream. Be sure there are no remaining lumps of sour cream. Add the pureed strawberries then chill completely.

When cool, pour into the base of your ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer’s recommendations. Place in a freezer-proof container and freeze in the coldest part of freezer for at least four hours.