Monday, 16 April 2018

Carrot cake ice cream

Little balls of sunshine

Josie's asking her dad: who's the fat pirate?
It all started in Lower Slaughter, with Thomas, the son, and Josie, the daughter. I was on the wine, they (of course) drank only water.

Enough of that. Ever been to Lower Slaughter? It's utterly beguiling at first. All honeyed Cotswold stone buildings with Farrow and Ball trim, aside an ancient brook that feeds a mill. But then you realise this is an empty village, frequented only by coach loads of "it's so pur-dee" Americans and Range Rovers of chippy city people.

Like us. Except, without the Range Rover.

Belinda and I were having dinner with Gaby and Alan from Bristol (it was their anniversary) and their children Josie and Thomas. For dessert, Josie ordered ice cream. I leaned sideways into the children and said quietly "I make ice cream. Next time you come to ours I'll make any flavour. One choice each."
"Any flavour?"
"Anything."
"Any? Really"
"Yup."
"Chocolate." said  Josie.
"OK apart from chocolate... and vanilla. You can get those anywhere."

Some time later we had two agreed choices. For Josie, carrot cake ice cream. For Thomas, cream egg. I'm still working on the Creme Egg version. It'll probably be a big chocolate egg filled with white and yellow ice creams, flavours to be determined. But first, for Josie, carrot cake.

Carrot cake ice cream
Makes approx 1.5 litres.

I could have made a base ice cream and added lumps of carrot cake. Nah. I wanted something that tasted OF carrot cake not just featured it as a minor attraction. That meant carrots, cinnamon, walnuts. I googled. There were no recipes. I had fallen off the map.
Start with the carrots. We need to reduce the water content. Obvious way is by baking them. This also sweetens the carrot by caramelising the natural sugars. Water is the enemy of ice-cream. Water = sorbet or granita. Too much water gives you a grainy ice cream.

I also wanted a crunch element. This would be walnuts, as found in many a cake. I wanted to caramelise the nuts to ensure they stayed crisp... and just for flavour.

There are three main elements to this:
carrot and orange puree
cream
walnut praline

This makes a lot of ice cream, enough for 20 scoops, but it's a fair amount of effort to make and the roasting time (and energy) is about the same if it's five kilos or 500g. Let's go big.




I roasted a kilo of carrots for two hours at 160°C. Choose ugly cheap ones. If they start to burn (more than this), cover them in foil. They look brown but that burn is all natural caramel flavour. Just as with steak. You don't want ash, but deep dark brown is all good. Taste it and see. You'll see from the second picture that the roasting removes nearly two thirds of the weight... all of it tasteless water. That's the benefit of pureeing: the concentration of flavour. This must be one of the few ice creams with fibre! I've noticed it doesn't melt as fast as my custard based versions.

Remove the stalk nibs and roughly chop the carrot. Blend them with 420ml of glucose syrup (three supermarket tubes), two tablespoons of golden syrup and 400ml of freshly squeezed orange juice. You want the zesty flavour. Both glucose and golden syrups are invert sugars (ish). This reduces the tendency for crystallisation. Blend well until smooth. Sieve to make sure, especially if your blender is a bit pony. You should now have about a litre of this. Cool colour huh? Cover and refrigerate.




Now make the walnut praline. Basically toasted nuts in toffee. Roast 150g of walnut pieces at 180°C for ten minutes. You want a good deep colour and a crisp nut. Allow to cool then break them down into small pieces using the back of your hands. 

The praline is simple but needs constant attention. Make it in a heavy pan with a light coloured interior. You need to see the colour change in the sugar. I have a lovely old tinned copper pan.

Mix 200g caster sugar with a few tablespoons of water. Dissolve the sugar over a low heat then fire up the hob. Big burner. Watch carefully as the sugar changes colour from clear to amber to deep gold to well... caramel colour. Don't stir and be careful. This stuff will be approaching 180°C. I tend to move the pan around to like a clock. Burners are never even. Have a sink of cold water handy. You can carefully lower the pan in the water to stop the cooking if needs be. The darker the colour, the more bitter the flavour. But this isn't bad bitter. That's what caramel means. Just not black. 


Sugar dissolved. Up with the heat. Note the colour change just starting on the right.


Caramel. If you have a probe, this will read around 180°C.

Stir in your roasted nuts and pour the praline onto some baking paper, or preferably silicon. It will cool quickly to a solid. Break this into pieces and blitz into small chunks (and some sugary dust) pour the whole lot into an airtight container. Praline, like all burnt sugar products, deliquesces quickly. It takes in water from the air. Leave it out too long and your delightful amber jewels will meld together in a most unhelpful way.

Walnut praline.
When you're ready to churn... mix the chilled carrot puree with about half a litre of double cream. I say 'about' because I'm not yet fully minded. More cream makes it creamy and god, I love creamy, but it obviously diminishes the carrot flavour. Vanilla, this ain't. So taste. See. Decide. You need some cream (at least 300ml) otherwise you're making sorbet. You might want to sweeten with more golden syrup. Remember chilling reduces our perception of sweetness so it should be slightly sweeter than you like. Terrible instruction.

Now add a big pinch of cinnamon. Taste. A small pinch of salt. Yes. Salt. Stir well. Taste.

Churn in your machine. You may need to churn in batches. Towards the end as things are firming up, pour in the nuts. Chill in the freezer for at least a couple of hours.


Pain d'├ępices. Isn't it magnificent?
To serve. Big scoops in a bowl. It's a... satisfying ice cream with enough flavour and texture to live by itself. But... I like a faff and we had friends round. I made a pain d'epices (French spiced bread/cake) and toasted slices. "It's ice-cream on toast!" Exclaimed Matt. I was pleased though because Helen correctly guessed the flavour on her first spoonful.

I drizzled the toast with some sweetened Philadelphia cream cheese. You see the link? For added interest and for more cakey, toasty notes, I added some chocolate granola (like this one but made with butter not coconut fat) in a smudge of orange syrup. I'd forgotten how much I love pain d'spices. I must also do more with gingerbread.

This was the development dish. I suspect I'll serve the ice cream as a pain d'spices sandwich topped with the sweet Philly and surrounded by the granola and candied carrot pieces.

Josie's not tried it yet. I will update you when she does.




Fennel Fritters



I adore these. Call it tempura if you like. Or fritto misto, bahji, no-name pak. Every culture has this dish of vegetables deep fried in a light batter. For some reason we don't seem to do it much in the UK. Fennel  is transformed by deep frying. Yes, OK, arguably all veg are (chips!) but fennel's delicate flavour and texture works so well here. I put this as a side with pork, chicken or fish. Cut smaller, it's also great as a 'nibble', served ow-ow-ow hot, straight from the fryer. 

Batter matters. There are many variations. I use an egg white and cornflour. It sticks well and puffs delightfully. I always seem to have spare egg white in my fridge; a consequence no doubt of my many adventures in ice cream.


Fennel Fritters
Serves six as a side.

Slice the tough bottom off a large fennel and any stalky ends. Slice the rest lengthways quite thinly, a few mm. Leave on any green fronds. These look and taste great.

Mix up a batter by whisking two egg whites to floppy. Add a tablespoon of cornflower and whisk well. It should feel  like gloss paint. 

Roll the slices of fennel around in the batter and drop individually into oil heated to 180°C. If you put it all in together, that's exactly how it'll come out. The fritters will float tenaciously as the batter bubbles so keep them dunked under. After a couple of minutes, turn the fritters in the oil. Remove after another couple of minutes or until golden.

You can of course take them out just before ready and then refry just before service. Especially useful if, like me, you have an open kitchen and don't necessarily want that chip shop vibe.