Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Actual Cooking: Phallic Vegetable Ice Cream

Well, pumpkin ice cream, really, but since I decided to substitute butternut squash (from the organic home garden stand right down the street) for real, honest-to-FSM pumpkin, my daughter won't let me call it that. Telling her that I saw Alton Brown recommend butternut for making pumpkin pie on Good Eats¹ didn't get me anywhere with her, and got Alton called an idiot (sorry, AB; kids, you know...).

Now that the election is over and I can breathe again, I plan to get back to cooking, and to blogging about it. Naturally, I've been thinking about what to make for Thanksgiving. We're a pretty traditional family -- there's no messing with the turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, even the cranberry "sauce" with the can ribs still pressed into its sides -- but there's a little maneuvering room around the edges, with side dishes and dessert. I have an alternative sweet potato side in mind, but for now, I've been focused on pumpkin ice cream.

I searched the web and my ice cream cookbooks for recipes, but the first one I found (adapted by David Lebovitz from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox). Interestingly, Lebovitz, who lives in Paris and can't easily get whole pumpkins, also substituted butternut for pumpkin, but I had already decided on that before I found this recipe.

Once I found it, I followed it pretty closely, with two exceptions: I didn't use any liquor, and I replaced half of the specified dark brown sugar with Connecticut pure maple syrup (just 'cuz). I washed and split the butternut (don't forget to reserve the seeds; they're great toasted, just like mini pumpkin seeds) and roasted in at 375°F for 45 minutes; while it was in the oven, I worked on the ice cream base. The spiced cream custard base cooked up thicker than I'm used to: With 5 egg yolks, it's a bit eggier than some other recipes I've worked with. Once it's done, it gets strained into an ice-bath-chilled bowl and the brown sugar (and, in my variation, maple syrup) gets whisked in. As soon as the mixture was cool enough, I transferred it to the fridge to chill. By this time, the "pumpkin" was done, so I scooped out the cooked flesh and turned to the blender to puree it. Next time, I think I'll use my stick blender in a bowl, because the standing blender's blades tended to just hollow out a space in the mass of squash flesh, and I kept having to stop and fiddle with it.

Once the puree is done and cooled, and the ice cream base is chilled², it all gets whisked together (with a skosh of vanilla extract) and goes into the ice cream machine. Probably because the base was thicker, it froze quickly, and the "lick the beater" test suggests it will be creamy and delicious. As usual, I packed it into two 1-pint coated paper buckets (purchased at my local restaurant supply store as soup containers, but they look like ice cream pints to me)  and stashed it in my chest freezer to await Thanksgiving dinner. I'll let you know in an after-action post how it comes out.

¹ Actually, his recipe uses actual pumpkin, it turns out, but I remembered the suggestion.

² The recipes always say to refrigerate overnight, but I generally cheat and chill the base in my chest freezer, with no noticeable trouble so far.

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