Sunday, August 9, 2009

Double Vanilla Ice Cream with WHAT?????????

In the embryonic stages of this blog, I'm gonna fess up. Here it is, folks. I RARELY EAT DESSERT. Now don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like it or anything (I mean, what's not to like?) but there are two factors in play here. One is my never ending battle to actually become a skinny cook (which of course will never happen) and the other is my lifelong addiction to salt.

Yup, I'm a salt kinda girl. I'm the one who has an esoteric assortment of the stuff in my pantry. In fact, I just pulled everything off the shelf so I could take inventory. Here's what's on hand:

Bolivian Rose Andes Mountain coarse salt
Truffle salt
Alaea - Coarse Hawaiian pink salt (my fave)
Fleur de Sel (flower of salt)
Cyprus Black Lava Mediterranean black salt flakes
Ocean Smoked Gray sea salt
Murray River Australian Flake salt
Hiwa Kai Gray sea salt
Diamond Crystal kosher salt

Believe me now? I probably should have been a member of the deer family. Just think about all of those salt licks out there! Oh, and please don't tell my doc (hope she doesn't read this) or she might make me mend my evil ways.

I know you are probably thinking that I am deranged. You're probably also wondering where the hell I am going with this. Here's the answer: Double Vanilla Ice Cream with Olive Oil and Fleur de Sel.

My dear friend Charlene made the mistake of telling me recently that she was headed to Float-A-Way Cafe for dinner. (If you live anywhere near Atlanta, this is where you must eat. Trust me on this one). The minute she said it, I was reminded of their amazing house-made, soft serve ice cream. They serve it with a selection of toppings, but the one that sends me over the edge is the version with extra virgin olive oil and Fleur de Sel.

Let me make myself clear. I do not eat dessert. Give me a stinky cheese any day. But this???? Put it in front of me and I will lick the bowl clean (what was that I said about deer?) If I ever find myself on death row, this is what I will eat for my last meal (ok, so truffled asiago fries might be there also but that's another post).

So I decided to make it at home. Even though I worked for the geniuses who own Float-A-Way, I did not have their recipe. What I did have, however, was their concept which I happily attribute to them.

When you are making vanilla ice cream at home, there is little difference in the basic ingredients - sugar, cream, milk or half-and-half, eggs and vanilla. So that's what I started with. And then I remembered that canister of vanilla sugar hiding in the depths of my pantry (for the uninitiated out there, it's just granulated sugar into which a vanilla bean or two has been buried and left to "cure" for as long as you can stand not to use it up quickly). Mine had been left to languish for about nine months. I will tell you now that it added a big "WOW" factor to the finished product.

My recipe follows. It was pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. In fact, I will go so far as to say that it's worth the purchase of an ice cream maker if you don't already have one. Mine is a Cuisinart, not overly expensive and certainly not high-tech. Any idiot could make it work, so I suppose that's why I purchased it :)

Of course, we live in the real world and I'm not deluding myself that you will rush out and buy an ice cream maker of your very own. So use store-bought vanilla if you must, but make sure it's the very best quality and let it soften before you serve it, okay?

Double Vanilla Ice Cream (with Olive Oil and Fleur de Sel)

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half-and-half
3/4 cup vanilla sugar
pinch of salt (I used Kosher)
6 egg yolks (I used farm fresh eggs, but any large egg will do)
2 teaspoons vanilla paste (you can find this at Whole Foods or online)
Extra-virgin olive oil (I used Colavita, but use whatever you like)
Fleur de Sel

Place cream, half-and-half, sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm but not simmering.

Meanwhile, place egg yolks in a heatproof bowl and stir them together with the vanilla paste.

Slowly pour about 1 cup of the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking to blend. Then pour this back into the remaining cream/half-and-half mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches a temperature of 165-degrees (use an instant read thermometer for this). Eggs will coagulate at 180-degrees, so do not let it get to that point.

Remove from heat and strain into a bowl. Do not use a fine-mesh strainer. You want something that will catch any egg that has cooked but will also let the specks of vanilla strain through.

Refrigerate until chilled (at least 2-3 hours) or place bowl into a larger bowl of ice and stir occasionally until cool, about 45 minutes. Then place in ice cream freezer and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

When the ice cream is ready, scoop into dishes or glasses (it's better if ice cream is softened). Drizzle a spoonful of extra-virgin olive oil over the top of each one and sprinkle with Fleur de Sel to taste. You will immediately be transported to Nirvana.

This makes about a quart of ice cream.

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