Sunday, October 23, 2005

The ice cream project: sour cream anise ice cream

This one is a shameless ripoff of an ice cream I've eaten at Sanford, which is the local place I most highly recommend if someone else is paying. I was intrigued by the idea of sour cream ice cream when I saw it on the menu and I figured I would give anise a shot. It blew me away.

I grew up avoiding anything that might taste like black licorice or jelly beans, which I still abhor, but over the years of my progressively zealous food love I have learned a thing or two about that distinctive anise flavor. The revelation came when I figured out that two foods I really crave, Italian sausage and Thai curry, are both made with anise-y ingredients (fennel and Thai basil, respectively). This made me reconsider my aversion to all things anise. The next step was warming up to fresh fennel, a food I never ate until I was in my late 20s, and eventually also to Ouzo and Pernod. Anise goes really well with sweet flavors and is often used in Eastern European baking, not that I know anything about that. I like it now enough to seek it out. (At this point there are almost no flavors I really dislike. Black licorice is just so strong, so that would be one. I eat some of them now and then so it's not a total aversion, but I also dislike bananas. I wish I didn't but I do. Aside from black licorice and bananas, I don't think there's any food I would politely decline on the basis of not liking its flavor.)

I made this ice cream because I had cream and sour cream in the fridge past their use-by dates. I had only two eggs, moreover, so I wanted an ice cream that I thought would be thick enough without my usual yolk-rich mixture. Sour cream is thick, I reckoned, and can compensate for some of the eggs. I reckoned right. Like my caramel ice cream, this one was so thick it hardened in no time at all. Faster freezing means less overrun. Overrun is the air that is beaten into ice cream as it churns, and less air means more creamy, dreamy. (Commercial ice creams can be up to half overrun by volume, which means that you end up eating a lot of air.)

To make this I first steeped a teaspoon of anise seeds in a cup of heavy cream by heating the mixture just to a simmer and then leaving it for half an hour.

Then I proceeded with the custard method using five oz. vanilla sugar, 1 cup sour cream (full fat of course), half a cup of heavy cream, and two yolks. I reserved the heavy cream to stir in after the cooking. When it was thick on the stove I strained the seeds out and left it in the fridge to chill.

As you can see from the paddle, the mixture was very thick. It froze in about three minutes, and I quickly transferred it to the freezer to harden. It scooped beautifully a few hours later and had that gelato/frozen custard texture that pleased me so much in my caramel ice cream: ultrarich, perfectly smooth, no ice crystals on the tongue. The flavors combine beautifully, like natural complements. Like cream cheese and buttermilk frozen desserts, sour cream ice cream introduces a welcome tartness that balances ice cream's sweetness and wakes up the tongue. It's really great.

Sanford serves this with lemon pound cake and lemon curd but I can't be bothered to make stuff like that. I take my sour cream anise ice cream straight up.

My other ice creams:

  • Egg ice cream

  • Black sesame ice cream

  • Green chile mint ice cream

  • Rice ice cream

  • Cardamom ice cream

  • Caramel ice cream

  • Apples and honey ice cream

  • Watermelon sour cream sherbet

  • Mojito cream cheese ice cream

  • Peach frozen yogurt

  • Oatmeal raisin ice cream

  • Mango cream cheese ice cream

  • Mocha ice cream

  • Berry buttermilk sherbet

  • Gingersnap ice cream

    Blogger Helen said...

    Your ice-cream looks so creamy and delicious :)

    I eat pretty much everything, and I agree with you on star anise, it's just one of those spices that I really dislike. I do like fennel though (the white bulb that many people call anise), and I like many dishes that have star anise present (like meat braises), but where it's not the main flavor. For the ice-cream, did you use star anise, or fennel seeds? They kind of look like fennel seeds to me, but I am not sure. Wish I had ice-cream maker. Do you think it might work as a cheesecake or panna cotta flavor?

    4:07 PM  
    Blogger mzn said...

    Hi Helen,
    As far as I can tell, anise, fennel, star anise, and licorice are all different plants with similar flavors. I too have seen fennel mistakenly called anise in the grocery store. According to my reference books, anise is the sweetest and star anise is the spiciest of these.

    I think it would make excellent cheescake. I don't know about panna cotta (I have never made it) but I don't see why not. Flan or creme caramel (same thing?) would also be good.

    One of my ice cream cookbooks has alternate instructions for "still freezing" ice cream--you basically make the custard, put it in a container in the freezer, and stir it every hour or two. You can also put it in the food processor or standing mixer when it's partially frozen. I'm going to give it a try one of these days.

    8:11 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Looks amazing, your ice cream. Have you ever tried Dutch salt licorice or salmiac licorice? I'll send you a box if you mail me your snailmail address. In Italy they make these kinds of licorice ice creams, not as creamy as American ice cream (which is too bad), but always with very intense flavour.

    Nice to hear that someone isn't a banana fan. I don't like bananas either. Bananas are the liver of the naughts. You only eat them because they're supposed to be good for you, but I'd rather get my potassium from mushrooms. And as far as firming up poos go, the other 'use' for bananas, I've always been satisfied with the current consistency, which is consistently consistent.

    9:13 AM  
    Blogger Emily K. Slaughter said...

    How much sugar does your recipe call for? It seems to be cut off..."5 oz vanilla sugar"

    9:15 PM  
    Blogger mzn said...

    hey Emily, thanks for commenting. It's been a while since I made this recipe, but I think 5 oz. is correct. Regular sugar would work if you don't have vanilla sugar, but you might add a little vanilla extract to make up for it.

    10:07 PM  

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