Red. This week is all about red. First off, we rang in the Year of the Snake for Chinese New Year on Sunday. In Chinese culture, the colour red symbolizes good fortune and joy. During the 15 days Chinese New Year is celebrated, red envelopes, red lanterns, red paper-cuts, and other red decor abound.
And then there’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow. Definitely not a day I’m rah rah rah about, but an occasion that many enjoy. Red hearts, red roses, red, red, red all around. A red ice cream is befitting for this week.
Back in Week #39, I made the most gorgeous red ice cream: Beet and Orange Ice Cream. I’ve been racking my brain all week trying to figure out what other intensely red ice cream recipe I can develop. I was inspired by the idea of Red Velvet Cake — layers of red-tinged chocolate cake and cream cheese frosting — but after poking around online, I realized that Red Velvet Cake recipes typically call for a ridiculous amount of red food colouring to tint the cake red. Some recipes call for a WHOLE BOTTLE of colouring! Adding chemicals to my ice cream recipes is the last thing I want to do! Fortunately, I came across Bake Cakery’s post on Red Velvet Cake made with beets. This was the perfect inspiration to use beets in another ice cream recipe and in a way that will lead to a completely different taste. Beets + cocoa + cream cheese = all natural Red Velvet Ice Cream bliss!
I used 1.5 cup of grated beets in this recipe (compared to the 2 cups used in my Beet and Orange Ice Cream recipe) to make sure the taste of beets would not be overwhelming. A 1/4 cup of natural cocoa powder introduces just enough of a chocolatey taste to the ice cream, and half a brick of cream cheese pays tribute to the cream cheese frosting traditionally used to frost a Red Velvet Cake while adding a subtle tang.
The ice cream turned out reddish-brown — definitely not the same luscious red as my Beet and Orange Ice Cream or the deep garnet colour of a traditional Red Velvet Cake made with food colouring. I was a little disappointed in the colour, but it was a small price to pay to not add any food colouring to the recipe. If you want your Red Velvet Ice Cream to have a more brilliant red colour, go ahead, add a few drops. Your secret is safe with me!
Red Velvet Ice Cream (makes about 1.5 L)
1.5 cups grated beets
1/2 cup water
125 g cream cheese
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder
Juice of half a lemon
3 cups half-and-half cream, divided
3/4 cup white sugar
Pinch of salt
- In a small saucepan, simmer the beets in the water until they are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Keep an eye on water levels — if the pan starts to dry, add a tablespoon or two of water.
- Tip the beets, the cooking liquid, and the lemon juice into a blender and puree until smooth.
- Add the cream cheese, cocoa powder, 1/2 cup of half-and-half cream and puree until smooth. Set aside.
- In a heavy saucepan, lightly whisk together the eggs and sugar.
- Add 2 cups of the half-and-half cream.
- Cook the mixture over medium-low heat stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (170 degrees F / 77 degrees C).
- Remove from heat immediately and add the remaining 1/2 c cup of the half-and-half to stop the cooking. Place the saucepan into an ice bath to cool the custard rapidly.
- When the custard is cool, whisk in the beet mixture.
- Chill overnight in the fridge.
- Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and prepare according to the manufacturer’s instructions.