Wednesday, September 26, 2012

OMG a Recipe: Cheesecake Ice Cream to Soothe the Savage Computerbeast

I spent a whole Sunday afternoon reorganizing my music playlists. The best thing about getting a new computer is the most annoying thing: a clean slate. Especially with music, the way mp3s have gotten all tricksy-Hobbit with embedded DRMs and music playing software saying, "What playlists? You don't have any playlists. Please, buy this new Justin Bieber album - it's hotttttt!" Maybe there's easier ways to get around this First World Problem, but I did it The Hard Way, sifting through old stored music, re-compiling files in a single location versus spread out like computerized sneeze spittle. In short, my mindgrape was crushed and I needed some Ice Cream Non-Sexual Healing. Enter: Blackberry Cheesecake Ice Cream. Commence Moonwalking, as I finally got my Michael Jackson hits in the order I like them.

Cheesecake and berry ice cream - what's not to love? - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I keep saying, "This is the last ode to Summer... no, this is the last ode to Summer." I think this one might possibly be it, but don't be surprised if some summer squash posts randomly show up in the middle of November. The berry season is sweet, but agonizingly short, and with an equally short shelf life. For all the free blackberries you can pick on the roadside, you'll never eat all of them before they start getting mushy and slimy. Like raspberries, they're just too delicate and fleeting like the seasonal moment that bore them, hence the invention of jams and jellies. This seasonal conundrum applies equally to the wild red huckleberries that grow in bushy shrubs that tend to pop up from rotted tree stumps -- which we have an abundance of in the Northwest, including my backyard. The little red berries are pretty, but tart, and kind of an effort to pick, as even the largest ones never get bigger than a pea and they're delicate. But I try to gather at least a few cupfuls every season and then stare at them, wondering what the heck I'm going to do with them, since they're wicked tart. Last year, I made a sour jam from the berries and used it with beets on a really tasty savory tart. I picked even less berries this time, not enough to bake tarts with, but I thought, let's sweeten things up because I think they would look beautiful swirled in a cheesecake-flavored ice cream. (Music to play while making ice cream, for its meditative beat track: Spoon's "I Turn My Camera on")

Wild berry ice cream, and how a creepy LV window display made me think of the berries - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Brain, I like your way of thinking. Even if it is a bit of a one-sided conversation. One of the things I love best about cheesecake is how incredibly dense it is. Cheesecake, you are my density, if George McFly were awkwardly wooing a dessert. I wanted the ice cream base to be as rich as possible, without just being a sweetened lard bomb. I opted for half and half versus heavy cream, and used a brick of cream cheese to round out the richness, plus add that bit of sourness that you get with cheesecake. No eggs in this, there's plenty of fat to emulsify into a rich custard-like base. Just some sugar and all that went into the blender, to make sure everything was fully liquefied. I let the base chill in the fridge overnight and made a quick stovetop sugar-sweetened jam from the wild berries, straining out all the seeds and skins so that it would be a smooth jelly to swirl into the churned ice cream. That's really the trick to getting that pretty swirl, adding dollops of a fruit jam over the ice cream, swirling lightly, then layering with more of the churned ice cream. Let it freeze, fully set, and your ice cream scoop digging into those layers will make it look magical in your food blog-approved serving dish. (Music to play while taking annoyingly endless food photos: Duran Duran's "Girls on Film")

And guess what? It really tasted like a frozen cheesecake, minus the graham cracker crust. Will wonders never cease! I'm sure if I wanted to be more industrious, I'd have baked graham crackers from scratch, crumbled and made them into a streusel topping to finish the dish. But good Lord, man, I was mad for dessert. I was so in love with this that I pretty much finished off that whole batch in a week and wanted to make another one. By then the blackberries were in full swing, so I ran down the hill to the massive bramble that just lines this whole part of the street and picked about a quart's worth. They weren't particularly sweet. I had Indy with me and while she ate a few, she wasn't so excited about them so as to take the liberty of picking and eating them on her own. Which is a shame because, do you know how funny-cute it is to see a dog gingerly pick berries and eat them? (Music to play while picking berries with your fuzzy BFF against a summery, picturesque backdrop: Harry Connick Jr.'s "A Wink and a Smile")

Fresh-picked blackberries and a ghoulish vampire-like strained berry sauce - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I repeated the same steps of thrown-together ice cream base, including making a much larger batch of blackberry jam, probably more than what the ice cream could handle, but whatever. Everything chilled, ice cream was churned, blackberry jam was overly-swirled, and it patiently awaited the freezer's work while I faced my music organization conundrum. It felt like a wasted Sunday, like spending a whole day reorganizing sock drawers and alphabetizing your DVDs, but the drudgery was rewarded with a bowl of blackberry cheesecake ice cream and rocking out to a playlist that included They Might Be Giants, Ben Folds, Cake, The Beach Boys, Dead or Alive, Lily Allen and Stevie Wonder. (Music to listen to while writing a blog post: Nicola Conte's Bossa Per Due album on shuffle, because it's peppy and jazzy and I can't write when there's lyrics messing with my brain)

Frozen Cheesecake Ice Cream

1 pint of half and half
1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar 

Reserve 1 cup of fruit jam or jelly - can be homemade or store-bought

Special tools/gear: blender and ice cream maker. 

Combine the half and half, cream cheese and sugar into the blender and blend until smooth and the cream cheese is fully incorporated into the liquid. Chill the ice cream base for a couple of hours or overnight. 

If you're making your own jam for the ice cream, strain out the seeds/skins of the cooked down fruit to give it a smooth consistency. Store bought jam is fine, since you don't need a lot of it to achieve the swirl pattern in the ice cream. You can even use chocolate sauce or caramel if you want to make it a chocolate or caramel cheesecake, you wild devil, you.

Follow the instructions on your ice cream maker. When the base is churned, put a third of the base in the final serving container -- I like a Pyrex loaf pan with a snap-top cover. Put a few spoonfuls of the jam on the ice cream and lightly swirl, then add another layer of the churned ice cream, and spoonfuls of jam and continue until everything is in the container. Seal that bad boy up and let it set up in the freezer for a few hours before serving. And yes, You're Welcome.

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