Sunday, August 31, 2008

Making Ice Cream While Gustav Menaces

Okay, I'm out: I live near the Gulf Coast. Naturally, I am concerned about Hurricane Gustav. At least where I am, it's nothing like the lunacy in Louisiana (and I should know, the Mrs. and I were part of the Katrina evacuation [long story]), and even places in Texas like Jefferson County are ordering mandatory evacuations, although they are far from the actual landfall site. How do I know? Because I get my weather info here. But since there's not much to do between the model runs, I make homemade ice cream.

Today's flavor: Red Hot Walnut. I use a Cuisinart 2 Quart ice cream machine . (Yes, I sprung for stainless.) It doesn't fib about "twenty-five minutes to ice cream" but I've learned it is absolutely essential to have all the components cold before mixing, including the hand-mixing bowl; in fact, I keep the main tub in the freezer at all times just to be sure.

Red Hot Walnut Ice Cream
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 7/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup milk (I use skim b/c I'm also using condensed milk)
  • 1 small package chopped walnuts from the local grocery store
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ground cloves
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Powdered cayenne pepper
  • Red food coloring (optional)
Procedure: well ahead of time, make sure all ingredients are brought down to temperature in refrigerator (NB don't be tempted to freeze the condensed milk, it'll take forever to get out of the can). Mix milk and sugar in mixing bowl until sugar is dissolved. Add heavy cream, condensed milk, and vanilla extract, mixing by hand or at low speed (if you go high the cream may whip, which isn't what we need). Add the nutmeg and cloves and ground cinnamon; taste for calibration purposes.

At this point, you have Not So Red Hot Ice Cream, with a baseline of essentially zero 'bite' or 'heat". It would be perfectly acceptable to start the freezing now, but where's the fun in that? Instead, add the cinnamon oil a bit at a time --and I do mean "bit," as in a few drops at a time and mix and taste. Do not add a whole little bottle unless you like Ultra Hot. A little goes a long way. When the proper level of "bite" has been reached, then begin adding the cayenne pepper one tablespoon at a time. Again, you will need to taste-calibrate until the desired heat level is achieved. See how the cinnamon "bite" and the cayenne "heat" compliment each other.

When mixture is adjusted to final taste satisfaction, add food coloring if desired, one drop at a time, until desired coloration is achieved. Transfer mixture to ice cream maker and turn ON. Go watch TV. After twenty-five minutes, go check. If consistency is that of soft-serve, add the walnuts. Otherwise, go back and wait another five-ten minutes and check again. Serve immediately, or else transfer to airtight freezer storage medium and freeze for an additional two hours for hard-pack (nb remove from freezer 15 minutes prior to serving, or else have a heated scoop at the ready).

One could conceivably use actual Red Hots in this recipe. One could also conceivably use Hot Damn, but that should be added in the last five minutes of the machine-freezing process, and it should be throughly chilled in the freezer prior to addition (remember that alcohol has a lower freezing point than the rest of the mixture; adding it in the early stages will interfere with set-up).

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