Date Orange Almond Ice Cream (#48)

9 02 2013

This week’s flavour features a sticky favourite: dates.  Dates are the fruit of date palm trees.  They are commonly used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking and often paired with orange, almond, and honey flavours.  How about rolling all of these flavours into one ice cream?  I figured an orange-honey base with chopped dates and toasted sliced almonds would be a fantastic combination.

dried dates, Medjool dates

Sweet sticky dates

Dates are a bit sticky to work with, so here are few tips:

1) To prevent the dates from sticking to your knife while chopping, lightly coat your knife with some oil or cooking spray.

2) To prevent the chopped dates from sticking together in one big clump when you’re churning them into the ice cream, soak them overnight in a bit of hot water and Grand Marnier.  (The Grand Marnier optional, but it will infuse the dates with a subtle orange flavour.)

Results?  Yum!  The soft, sticky dates contrasted really well with the crunch of the flaky almonds, and the orange-honey flavours were perfectly balanced.  Using honey as a sweetener also made the ice cream super scoopable.  Bookmark this recipe — it’s the perfect dessert to finish a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean-themed dinner!

Date Orange Almond Ice Cream  (Makes about 1.25 L)

3/4 cup chopped dried dates
2 tablespoons of hot water
1 tablespoon of Grand Marnier (or substitute an extra tablespoon of hot water)
2 eggs
2/3 cup honey
A pinch of sea salt
3 cups half-and-half cream
Juice and finely chopped zest of one large orange
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds

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Caramelized Apricot and Brandy Ice Cream (#24)

23 08 2012

The Official Taster has declared that he gets extra ice cream this week — payback for when I bashed him in the leg with my unicycle.  I’ve been trying to learn to ride a unicycle for quite some time now, and I really ought to stop practicing in the hallway as I’m waiting for the elevator.  Last week I almost accidentally pulled the fire alarm when I tried to steady myself.  This week, the unicycle slipped from underneath me and went flying into the O.T.’s legs.  Big bruise and a scratch.  Ooops.  But an extra large bowl of ice cream can fix that.

Apricots are the star of the show this week.  With soft, velvety skins, apricots also rank quite highly on the Fruit Cuteness scale, just behind the soft and fuzzy peaches that were featured in last week’s light, airy Peaches and Cream Ice Cream.

fresh apricots

Fresh BC apricots basking in the sunshine on Commercial Drive

This week’s ice cream recipe involves more complex flavours: deeply caramelized apricots, warming brandy, and toasted almonds.  There’s a hint of fall just around the corner.

When preparing the apricots, be sure to cook the butter and sugar until the mixture turns a light caramel colour before adding the apricots.  That way, you will achieve a deep amber colour and caramel-ly taste.  During the first round in the test kitchen, I made the mistake of combining the butter, sugar, and apricots in the pan all at once.  Because of the high water content in the apricots, the mixture never caramelized, and what I ended up with was a bright orange apricot compote — sweet and delicious, but not quite what I wanted.  I also mixed 1/2 cup of chopped and toasted almonds into the ice cream, but the texture of the nuts seemed a bit too coarse when paired with the soft, brandy-infused apricots.  I would suggest garnishing the ice cream with toasted sliced almonds instead, as these have a much lighter texture.

Caramelized Apricot and Brandy Ice Cream  (Makes about 1.25 L)

Ice Cream: (Makes about 1.25 L)

2 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
3 cups half-and-half cream
2 tablespoons brandy
Toasted sliced almonds (optional garnish)

Caramelized Apricots:

2 1/2 cups chopped apricots
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon brandy

For the Ice Cream:

  1. In a heavy saucepan, lightly whisk together the eggs and sugar.
  2. Add 2 cups of the half-and-half cream.
  3. 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).
  4. Remove from heat immediately and add the remaining half-and-half to stop the cooking.  Place the saucepan into an ice bath to cool the custard rapidly.  Stir in the brandy.
  5. Chill overnight in the fridge.

For the Caramelized Apricots:

  1. While the ice cream is chilling, prepare the caramelized apricots.
  2. Melt the butter and sugar in a non-stick pan over medium heat.  Swirl occasionally and let the mixture turn a light caramel colour, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped apricots.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the apricots turn a gorgeous dark caramel colour.   This should take another 5 minutes or so.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the brandy.
  5. Cool and chill overnight in the fridge.

To Finish

  1. Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and prepare according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. In the final stages of churning, add the caramelized apricots and churn to distribute throughout the ice cream.
  3. Garnish with toasted sliced almonds if desired.
caramelized apricot and brandy ice cream

The Official Taster says: “Payback tastes GOOD.”

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