Something Worth Screaming ForPosted: July 24, 2010
One of the things I decided to tackle when I was back home this time around was ice cream. My brother has a pretty amazing ice cream machine, photographed above, that my father lovingly lugged back all the way from Italy. I don’t remember exactly how this story goes but apparently one day my brother was enquiring about some ice cream machines from Italy, then my father decided to ask some of his Italian colleagues and they all said this was the best and then my father bought it as a gift to my brother and voila! We had a Gaggia Gelatiera ice cream maker in our house, which I’m made to understand is a good machine because even Nicky and Oliver of Delicious Days have it.
Believe it or not, the machine has been with the family for many years and was even under my very own roof for years when my brother still lived with my parents before he got married. But I never touched it ever. I always thought to myself, “Nup, too hard. Won’t bother!” and stick loyally to my KitchenAid and whipping up warm baked goods instead.
But then there was an itch once I started reading David Lebovitz‘s tips on ice cream. I was actually browsing through Johnny Iuzzini’s very complicated, multi-component desserts extraordinaire book, Dessert Fourplay, one night and was stuck on his Apple and Pear foreplay for a few hours because I was torn between wishing I could dive right into the pages and take a little bite of everything, and reading the recipes in its entirety (this is why it took hours!) and figuring out how I’d tackle it if I were to make it. And there was this delightful green apple sorbet recipe and I couldn’t get over how beautiful it looked. It was just one scoop of sorbet on a tiny dish with apple chips as garnish and it seriously just drew me in.
Then my mum and I had dinner at Cumulus, Inc. and apart from being one of the best meals I’ve had in Melbourne ever, I was entirely fixated on the dessert we had.
It was hands down the best dessert I’d ever had. It’s no secret I don’t really enjoy dessert (I enjoy making them, but I’m not too much of a sweet tooth) and I’d choose sweet citrusy flavours over sweet chocolatey ones. This dessert had me gasping with surprise and pleasure from my very first bite. The moment it was laid down in front of me I wanted to push my waiter away and greedily start shoving everything in my mouth. My first bite, I actually painstakingly took tiny little portions of everything to fit onto my tiny dessert spoon just so I could taste everything in one go. It was like an explosion in my mouth. The contrast of tangy and sweet, the combatting textures of the shortbread and the smooth almond milk and the crunchy dehydrated passionfruit (that’s the tiny dots everywhere) with the almost mushy cubed poached pears, the different temperatures of frozen sorbet with the warm shortbread; and that smell of alcohol that just stuck with me long after I’d left the restaurant. It was the pear sorbet and the wonderful aroma of the alcohol with the pear… I can’t describe it, it was sweet and strong; mouthwatering, enticing.
So I ran off with this memory of a pear sorbet after reading Johnny Iuzzini’s recipes on his pairings of pear and green apples and it was like something had gotten under my skin and I wouldn’t rest until I tried it.
I almost immediately started my feverish hunt for a pear sorbet when I touched down in KL. A quick call to my brother and I was in possession of the ice cream machine for the rest of my holiday. I’m uncertain which recipe I used now, but I do think it was from the Epicurious application for iPhone. It involved poaching the pears in white wine for a few minutes (oh the smell of wine with pears still lingers in my memory) and then blitz in the food processor for a bit, before being chilled and then churned. It was all so easy, I almost couldn’t believe myself because it was so amazing when it came out!
I was so excited to serve it up, even if in my head I had imagine it being served with a garnish or even a cake but it was so brilliant even on its own. I was pretty excited to try my hand at a quenelle, let me tell you that. And a quenelle? Not as easy as it looks. Some people form quenelles with two spoons but apparently the traditional and correct method is to use just one spoon. It took me about six or seven tries before I ended up with the one perfect quenelle and I had to photograph it instantly before the humidity in Malaysia got the better of it.
“Gee, Soph, how hard can a quenelle be to form? It’s just a random shape of ice cream. I see it all the time when I dine out!” you might say.
Trust me, I’m with you. I was with you. I watched this video of Alex Stupak forming about 80 quenelles lightning quick and I thought, “I have to try this! I’m sure I can do it! Look at him go!”
(Skip right to the 42:00 mark and watch from there to see what I mean)
Yes, I watched that 1.5 hour video in its entirety. You’d watch it too just to see his food and techniques. It’s amazing. I now have this dream of traveling to USA and eating at all the amazing restaurants of chefs I admire. It’ll happen one day. I don’t expect that kind of reverent interest from all my readers so really, let the video load and skip to 42:00 and watch the lightning fast quenelles popping into bowls. It’ll make your jaw drop.
Appreciate your quenelles, people. It’s an art form.
Next, I wanted to try a chocolate sherbet. The refrigerator in my parents’ home has a pretty good stock of Valrhona cooking chocolate at the moment because after my macaron classes in Singapore, I bought a lot of Valrhona chocolate back to be used for my ganaches and for intense chocolate ice creams.
I quickly learned the different types of frozen desserts you can churn in an ice cream maker. If I remember correctly (and feel free to correct me), an ice cream is made with custard (egg-milk/cream combo); a sorbet is usually alcohol-based; a sherbet was water-based. The latter two do not contain any eggs at all so would do well for the vegans.
The chocolate sherbet was pretty killer. It was so rich and thick and I initially considered reducing the sugar (I always reduce sugars on my recipes because my mum’s diabetic and my entire family is pretty sugar-shy; we prefer salt!) of the mixture but I stuck with the recipe because if I’m not mistaken I was using the 70% cocoa Guanaja chocolate and the Guanaja’s pretty intense. In hindsight it could have done with a little less sugar but not by too much or I should have just swapped it out for the less intense chocolate.
One thing I learned was that frozen desserts are almost impossible to photograph, especially in the oppressive humidity in Malaysia. It doesn’t get more unappetising than looking at an island of chocolate sherbet surrounded by a chocolate ocean.
I did enjoy this sherbet, though. I had loaded it up with a few tablespoons of rum as well (what can I say? I love having booze in my desserts) and the texture was actually really amazing. It was very smooth and it felt like it just slid down your throat in a pleasurable chocolatey chilly cascade.
Then, as you all well know (or can safely assume), I religiously follow the blogs I have linked on the left of my page. I have them on my RSS feed and was pleased to see the appearance of bacon ice cream on Delicious Days. I was itching to try it the moment I read the recipe. In fact, I immediately printed it out and it was the dessert for our BBQ dinner.
I didn’t have any maple syrup on hand so I swapped it out for some Lyle’s Golden Syrup instead so it didn’t have the breakfast bacon and maple syrup flavour profile but I see where it could have gone with that, and the golden syrup was a close enough substitute in my opinion.
I actually really enjoyed it in a bizarre way. My mum could not handle it at all. She took a bite and returned it to me because it was too rich for her. I just took bite after bite wearing a puzzled smile on my face because it was such a funny thing to eat. I wanted to laugh yet my mind was repeatedly asking, “What??”
My brothers claimed it tasted just like bak kua in ice cream.
I suppose they’re right as bak kua (Chinese sweet grilled pork slice) is grilled over a charcoal fire so it has that strong smokiness to it like bacon. Isn’t smoky bacon so, so good? I don’t know about you guys but I’m a huge fan of bacon with maple syrup. One of my favourite breakfasts is crispy bacon with fluffy pancakes with butter and maple syrup. But the trick is to have everything in one gigantic forkful. In fact, I’ve been known to dip my bacon into maple syrup and eating it just like that. Gooo-ooood.
I can see why my mother found it entirely too bizarre but I was just blown away by how crazy and amazing an ice cream could be. The crispy bacon bits in the ice cream was the pièce de résistance for me. I never got around to it but my dad and I were discussing how excellent the bacon ice cream would be in the morning on a stack of fluffy pillowy pancakes, possibly with some scallions and cheese in the batter. Mmmm! I regret not trying this out now because I’m pretty sure it would have been a satisfying breakfast.
The verdict on ice cream making? I’m glad I decided to try my hand at them because they really aren’t as difficult as I thought they’d be and they’re so much fun to make. So addictive too. I also went out to buy The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, even if the ice cream machine doesn’t technically live under my roof anymore.
There’s an endless plethora of flavours to play with in ice cream; the possibilities are endless! I can’t wait to test out more of them when I’m home next.