Monday, July 30, 2007

Strawberry Heaven

As we head into week seven of the summer '07 ice cream challenge, allow me to get nostalgic for a moment. Harken back to the week of July 16. Where were you? What were you doing? I know where I was, and what I was doing: happily holed up in my kitchen, making Sour Cream Ice Cream with Brown Sugar Strawberry Swirl.

A longtime lover of strawberries, I spotted this recipe in the New York Times on July 4 and knew I had to try it. Apparently for author Melissa Clark, strawberry ice cream is surprisingly tricky to make. "I’ve always ended up with something riddled with alarmingly icy chunks of berry that give me a headache when I bite down," she writes in the article accompanying the recipe. So Clark developed a technique that yields a soft serve ice cream with bits of (unfrozen) berries. The crux of this technique is that the ice cream does not go into the freezer after the berries are added at the end--that keeps them from turning into frozen fruit pebbles and also keeps the custard’s texture supple and soft.

In addition to sugar, cream, milk, egg yolks, vanilla and strawberries, this recipe includes sour cream and brown sugar. You add the sour cream to the custard base, and the brown sugar to the berries. You heat the berries and brown sugar just enough to bring out the berries’ juiciness and flavor, and melt the sugar into a molasses-tinged, brandy-spiked syrup. Then you fold it into the ice cream just before serving.

This ice cream is delicious. It is best freshly made, since the dreaded freezer never has a chance to turn the fruit into killer ice chunks. But even after spending a few days in the freezer, this ice cream holds up. There's a nice tang from the sour cream, and folding the strawberries in by hand produces a very pretty ice cream, with pink swirls throughout. It went over well with my book club yesterday; they declared it delicious. We enjoyed it with slices of peach pie, made from peaches I bought at the greenmarket. Summer desserts make for happy memories.--S

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