Sunday, September 12, 2010

Licorice Buttermilk Ices

This was an experiment that went well, though I had moments when I considered tipping the entire thing into the dustbin. First, let's discuss licorice.

Oh, I know-I can hear you screaming, "Licorice is the devil!" Acquired taste, to be sure, as is buttermilk. The thing is, good licorice is a rarity, and expensive. I suppose what infuriates me more is buying expensive licorice and having it be of inferior quality. I might as well go on record here as one of those sick individuals that crave the heavily salted stuff from Holland. Oh god, I love that stuff. I didn't use that for the ice milk. I used the soft, disgusting stuff from Australia that people seem to like. I was going to toss the bag out, but it cost three dollars. My first thought was to infuse vodka with it, but I have actual licorice root for that sort of thing. Instead, I infused buttermilk with the better part of a bag (which is, I should note-quite a bit of licorice).

Heating buttermilk is tricky-you don't want it to completely separate, but it will slightly curdle as you go. Once the strained and heated milk was added to beaten egg yolks and sugar, and reheated it smoothed back into a custard with no harm done. It did look scary for about a minute.

I did not use straight buttermilk. I used 1 1/2 cups with 1/2 cup whole milk. That balance seemed about right, but it was still pretty tangy. The lemony-licorice mixture seems really obvious to me, but you may prefer to use more regular milk, or even half and half. I wouldn't use heavy cream for this-it is more of a light, refreshing type dessert.

I planned to serve this with pears poached in sweet, white wine-but didn't get around to poaching pears. A little Pernod would be nice too, though you can easily overwhelm the buttermilk with licorice/anisette. You need to taste, and adjust as you go.

Mr. ETB wasn't sure he liked it, but after finishing a dish, he had three more. It does take a bit to adjust to the oddness of the unfamiliar combination, but in Mr. ETB's case, it quickly grew addictive.

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup whole milk
a handful of strong licorice candy (whatever you have)
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar

Heat the milks and licorice over low heat to infuse-about ten minutes. Strain out licorice. heat the milk again gently to steaming (don't boil it). Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light. Slowly, tempering as you go, pour the warmed milk into the eggs. Return everything to pan and cook until it reaches 170 degrees F. Strain into a bowl and set in an ice bath. When cool, transfer to an ice cream maker, or a freezer tray. I used a tray, stirring with a fork every thirty minutes until I got a texture I liked. You can also give it a good mashing with a potato masher to break up large ice crystals. Makes about 1 pint.

No comments: