Monday, March 19, 2012

OMG a Recipe: I Hate Strawberry Ice Cream

What...?! How can anyone hate strawberry ice cream? What are you, Wasabi, some kind of demon hellspawn who hates all things good and right with the world? Why not just start clubbing fuzzy baby seals while you're at it? Yes, it's true, but not about the baby seal-clubbing. I grew up hating strawberry ice cream. At birthday parties, if strawberry was the only ice cream choice, I took a slice of cake -- begrudgingly at that, as I preferred ice cream over cake. The container of Neapolitan ice cream would look like some trans-dimensional monster attacked it, with two thirds of the carton gone, but the perfect wedge of pink strawberry ice cream remaining with razor-sharp division. I couldn't stand the stuff! The sugary, fake fruit flavor, the cloying bubblegum pink hue - blech! But that was then... this is now.

Don't be hatin' on legit strawberry ice cream - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating yet again -- early experiences with food really shapes your later years. As a kid, my Spidey Sense told me from the start that the pink ice cream labeled with the flavor, "strawberry," was bad news. I certainly don't feel like I somehow missed out on some crucial milestone in my adulthood from avoiding a classic flavor for so many years. I also grew up not liking hamburgers (only hot dogs) and having a severe aversion towards wearing denim jeans as a child. I don't think my current life has any less meaningful experiences as a result of it. I happily enjoy hamburgers and wear denim now, so yes, transformation can, indeed, happen. I did have an allergy to strawberries as a child, but I'd argue most of the stuff labeled "strawberry ice cream" had about as much real strawberry as a package of Big Chew. And egads, did those two things taste equally ghastly. The excuse of being a child notwithstanding, we ate some pretty gnarly stuff as a kid. For as much saber-rattling that parents do now about their kids' food not being organic/artisanal/allergen-free/handmade by holy Tibetan dwarves, I'd argue any of us who survived the trans-fat-filled carefree days of Nabisco-Hostess Wonderland could probably eat shards of glass with a chaser of arsenic and still be fine by morning.

It wasn't until family was visiting last spring and we were starting to get some fresh strawberries in the market that I decided to do a Liz Lemon "Shut it Down!" intervention and really tackle the strawberry ice cream feud. I knew good berry ice cream was possible -- I've been happily enjoying all the different berry flavors from locally produced ice creameries since moving to the Pacific Northwest many years ago. This region, which has an abundance of fresh berries every season, has influenced a change of heart in my ice cream selections. When given the choice of good,quality ice cream, I often choose a fruit flavor (everything except strawberry) over some chocolate-caramel-fudge monstrosity that's likely more sugar than actual flavor. So given that current standing, there's no reason why I shouldn't stop this Spy vs Spy feud between myself and strawberry ice cream.

The most important ingredient -- REAL STRAWBERRIES. And a squid whisk. - Photos by Wasabi Prime
And feud-stopping I did. Like, a wheel-squealing hard-stop, once I made a batch of Real Strawberry Ice Cream. Capital letters required. Fresh berries, a whole vanilla bean, just a bit of lemon juice to keep everything bright -- feud against strawberry ice cream, over! It's an obvious No Duh moment, but that first bite of Real Strawberry Ice Cream is literally a taste of spring. Angels sang, a light from the heavens came down -- well, maybe not, but my tastebuds were sure humming a happy tune. The freshness of the berries and their natural, fragrant sweetness coming through is something mass-produced stuff will never be able to capture in their Evil Science Labs of Freaky Chemicals. Small-batch ice cream producers get it -- they'll make seasonal batches of fruit ice cream, literally freezing the flavor of a season in their ice cream, and when it's gone, it's gone. As it should be. So if you decide to use this recipe for Real Strawberry Ice Cream, use it wisely, Young Jedi -- use berries in season, in your own continent, not ones flown in from Argentina. No berries? Flavor it with something else, or just keep it as a plain vanilla ice cream and bust out some chocolate sauce. That's all this recipe is, my basic vanilla ice cream base, with fresh berries added.

Maybe that's the lesson to be gleaned from this odd retreat into the Wasabi Childhood -- we're conditioned as a kid to just eat what we want, when we want it, and sometimes the result isn't so tasty, since it was probably pumped full of preservatives. Patience is most certainly a virtue, and even if we can only enjoy certain things at limited times of the year, at the height of their freshness, we'll just learn to appreciate and value them more.

Real Strawberry Ice Cream
* You’ll need an ice cream maker for this, no way around it

3 cups of half and half or whole milk
4 large eggs at room temperature, not chilled
½ cup of sugar
1 vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tsp salt

4 cups fresh strawberries (about 1 small container), green tops removed and halved
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

To make the basic batter that makes the ice cream, heat a medium sized pot over a stove burner set to medium. Add sugar and half and half/milk and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. If you are using a whole vanilla bean, slice in half, scrape seeds into the sugar and milk mixture and place empty bean pod in, just to further flavor the liquid. Stir this mixture over the heat until it just starts to lightly bubble before lowering the heat down to medium low.

Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and lightly whisk. Add a little of the heated milk and sugar liquid, about a tablespoon or two, into the eggs and whisk. This process will temper the eggs, gently bringing them to the temperature of the milk and sugar to help ensure they won’t scramble when they’re added in. With the whisk ready, slowly drizzle the tempered eggs into the milk and sugar, whisking constantly to quickly incorporate the eggs. Continue to whisk until the eggs are fully incorporated. The finished batter should be slightly thickened and for health safety, it should be at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure the eggs have been cooked to a safe temperature.

Once the mixture is to a safe temperature, take it off the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes before straining out any little chunky egg bits and the vanilla bean pod. The strained batter can go into a bowl, wrapped with plastic wrap, and set into the refrigerator to chill overnight.

To make the strawberry flavoring, take your food processor or blender and place halved strawberries inside to blend into a puree. Pour this puree into a saucepan and heat over medium on the stove. Add in the sugar and let it dissolve, and continue to stir for another 15 minutes until the puree is reduced and thickened to the consistency of a loose jam. This will intensify the strawberry flavor. When it’s reduced, take it off the heat and add the lemon juice – this will help keep the color looking more fresh while it cools overnight in the fridge.

Both the custard and berry puree should be fully cooled before being placed in your ice cream maker. When churning the ice cream, follow your ice cream maker’s instructions and churn the vanilla batter first, until it’s to an almost soft-serve consistency, and then add in the strawberry puree, which will gently combine the two and you'll get a slight swirl texture of colors that's just nice to look at. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. I love strawberry ice cream. But I never try to make it by my own. I think I can try now. Thanks

    George J. McGuire
    breville bov650xl


Commentary encouraged. Fresh baked cookies, super-encouraged. (hit the 'post comment' button twice, sometimes it's buggy)