I bought an ice cream maker on clearance at the beginning of the summer, and have spent the past few months experimenting with ice cream bases and flavors (observe, the challenges of my life). After a total bust with the standard cooked-egg-custard base, I discovered a process that has yet to fail me. And for that, I have to credit Jeni Briton of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream (Ohio family, she has a shop in Chagrin Falls, please tell me someone has been there! Chicago folks, you can buy some of her ice creams at a few gourmet shops around the city) and her recent cookbook.
So far I’ve made pistachio (hard to go wrong with adding nuts to anything, in my opinion); lemon with raspberry swirl; chocolate with almond, caramel, and marshmallows; and my latest, a mulled-wine-spiced base with roasted grapes.
As so often happens for me, this particular experiment grew out of two things: a need to use up some random bits in my fridge, and a craving. I had two bunches of really flavorful grapes from the market that were starting to get wrinkly, and I really wanted ice cream. So how to combine the two? I didn’t feel like making any kind of jelly to mix into ice cream, but I remembered seeing a picture once of roasted grapes with honey that sounded delicious. I thought those would be good mixed into a base, but how to flavor the base? Vanilla would have been too easy. So I started sorting through my spice cabinet…what spices go with grapes? Well, as it turned out, the better question was what spices go with wine. I had half a jar of whole mulling spice that I knew made some great wine last winter, and wine is made with grapes, so why not?
It was an good start. The roasted grapes were fantastic (I may have eaten more than a handful straight off of the pan). I added the spices to the milk as it simmered and stirred in the cooled, roasted grapes to the ice cream once it was nearly done churning. I managed to wait a day for it to freeze completely before tasting and it was good; the mulling spices definitely came through, and the grapes were ok, but not quite what I was looking for. I think this could still be a fantastic ice cream, so now I just need to figure out the tweaks, how to get more of the wine/grape flavor into the ice cream. Wine jelly? Some wine-soaked fruit? Port (thanks for the suggestion mom!)?
It’s a work in progress, as most cooking is, but I will be quite happy to continue to experiment and share the results.
Jeni’s ice cream base (no flavorings)
Makes about 2 cups of base, adaptable to limitless flavors or mix-ins (great ideas in Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home). If you can’t find tapioca starch or syrup, you can use corn starch and syrup. While these ingredients may seem odd or unnecessary, they contribute to a perfectly scoopable ice cream, something not always found with other ice cream recipes.
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons tapioca syrup
2 teaspoons tapioca starch
1 1/2 tablespoons regular (not whipped) cream cheese, softened
Pinch of salt
In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the milk with the starch; in another, larger bowl, let the cream cheese soften. In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, and syrup over medium-high heat. Boil for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid scalding.
Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the starch and milk mixture, return to medium heat and simmer for another minute until thickened. Slowly whisk the milk into the cream cheese until incorporated, then whisk in salt. Pour the base into a Ziploc bag and cool in an ice bath for about 20 minutes. Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to your machine’s instructions.
Flavorings or other additions can be added at many points in the process: to the milk as it simmers, to the base as it churns, or just prior to freezing.
Mulled wine-spiced ice cream with roasted grapes
Makes about 2 cups. This is a work-in-progress, but it’s still delicious as-is!
1 cup seedless red grapes
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoons honey
1 recipe ice cream base
1 teaspoon mulled wine spice (I get mine here)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss grapes with oil and honey and bake for about 15 minutes or until the skins just start to split and release some of their juices. Coarsely chop about half of the grapes.
While preparing the ice cream base, above, add mulling spice to milk as it simmers. Strain the spices out before cooling and continue preparing the base as described. When the ice cream becomes soft-serve consistency, stir in the grapes and their juices. Scoop into a container, press a piece of parchment paper onto the ice cream before covering, and freeze for at least 4 hours.