Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Last Grab at Summer

Summer is over. I have to admit it, even here in sunny Florida. It was less than 40 degrees when Hubband left for work this morning, and that's probably the third day in a row. It's time for squashes, pumpkins, mushrooms and apples, and gone are the days of melons and berries. 
Just two weeks ago, though, I made one last stand for summer's bounty, and it was wonderful. 
T & J were coming over for dinner, and I decided it was a perfect opportunity to try making some ice cream. I've had my eye on a recipe of Brilynn's for quite a while now: a Balsamic-Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream. Mmmm! I love drizzling fresh berries with a little aged balsamic for dessert, so when she posted the recipe back in June, I was immediately intrigued. I rearranged it just a bit, and I must say, it came out fabulously. I used a mix of sugars to macerate the berries before roasting, and followed Shirley Corriher's advice about letting scalded milk rest, even after cooling. The ice cream churned up beautifully, with a super-creamy texture and no over-crystallization. It was so flavorful that I didn't even drizzle the reserved berry juice on top; we saved it to slather onto french toast the next morning. 
The picture isn't great, but that may be because I was too impatient; taking pictures is a fiddly business when all you want to do is eat your new favorite ice cream!
Balsamic-Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream 
Adapted from Brilynn of JumboEmpanadas

I personally think that brown sugar is much better with strawberries than white, for depth of flavor. Next time I will most likely use 100% brown sugar in this. This makes about 1 1/2 quarts.

2 lbs strawberries
2 1/2 Tb granulated sugar
3 Tb brown sugar
3 Tb balsamic vinegar

Preheat your oven to 350 F. While it warms, wash and pat dry the strawberries and remove the green hulls. Cut any very large berries in half. Place the berries on a baking sheet with sides (half sheet pan) to keep all the juices in, and then toss them with the two kinds of sugar. Let the berries macerate in the sugar for half an hour, then toss them with the vinegar. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the berries are completely squishy and there is lots of juice in the pan. Let cool completely. 

Custard Base

3 egg yolks
1 C heavy cream
1 C whole milk
2/3 C granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp table salt

Combine the milk and cream in a heavy saucepan and heat to a scald, or around 175 F on a candy thermometer. While the milk is heating, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in another bowl until they are pale and airy. Slowly add a large spoonful of hot milk to the egg/sugar mix, and whisk to temper. Add two more large spoonfuls, whisking after each, and then pour all of the tempered egg mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the hot milk/cream. Continue heating and stirring until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla and salt, stir, then pour through a fine sieve to remove any egg protein that may have clung to the yolks. Place in a bowl and let cool. Once cooled, cover and chill for at least 4-12 hours to allow the scalded milk proteins to rest. 
Once both berries and custard are cooled and rested sufficiently, strain the strawberries over a bowl to catch the juices, and combine the juices with the custard base. Reserve the berries. (You can also reserve a few spoonfuls of berries with juice at this point for topping, if you're so inclined.) Pour the custard into your ice cream machine and churn according to their instructions. 3-5 minutes before the ice cream is finished churning, add the berries to incorporate them into the custard. When finished churning, the ice cream will be more like a soft-serve consistency. I recommend freezing it in an airtight container for a few hours to firm it up, but it will be delicious either way. 

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