Friday, December 12, 2008
Fresh Ricotta Ice Cream
I know we are all knee deep in cookie making, but if you are beginning to feel like you might want a fantastically delicious and soothing detour, I’d suggest making this quick and easy Fresh Ricotta Ice Cream.
This unusual recipe comes from Mary Canales, the owner of Ici, a fabulous little ice cream shop in the Elmwood District of Berkeley where all the products are hand made from organic ingredients. Prior to opening her business, she spent several years as the Pastry Chef at Chez Panisse, which is where I was very lucky to have met her. If you’ve ever had the supreme pleasure of eating ice cream at Chez Panisse, you know it’s some of the very best. Pure fresh ingredients and delicious lush flavors, it's everything ice cream is supposed to be. If you have never dined at Chez Panisse, you must do so someday. The food, ambiance, kitchen and wait staff are unlike any other restaurant I’ve ever known. And of course, be sure to make a stop at Ici.
This is a very unique ice cream. There are no eggs and no cooking since the base is not a custard. It’s very light and tastes purely of fresh ricotta. The texture is a bit flaky, which makes this a fun new sensation in ice cream. The few bits of pistachio, chocolate and candied orange peel are wonderful if you choose to add them. Yes, it’s a lot like having an incredibly fresh, cool bite of cannoli, something that’s often very hard to find outside of Italian neighborhoods. Magnifico.
If you have a few spare moments, I strongly urge you to make the recipe I've included for fresh ricotta. It really takes no time at all and the product is so superior to anything you could ever buy at the market. Honestly, the sensation of quality is immediate. Once you taste the difference, you may never go back to spending good money for very mediocre ricotta.
- To fully enjoy the best of homemade ricotta, it should be used immediately but it will keep in the refrigerator for 2 days.
- You will need cheesecloth to make fresh ricotta, which you can find at most grocers and hardware stores.
- If you don’t make your own ricotta, look for a good brand. Mary uses half Bellwether Farms ricotta (coarse and tangy) and half Calabro ricotta (smooth and sweet).
- Strega is an Italian liqueur originating in the mid 1800s. It’s made from approximately 70 different herbs and spices and often used as a digestive elixir. Saffron accounts for its bright yellow color. I used rum in this version.
- If you don’t have chocolate, candied orange or pistachios on hand, the ice cream is very good on its own. I can also imagine it with fresh blackberry or raspberry coulis in summer. Or toasted almonds and honey or a very light caramel. Or a compote of quince or figs!
Ici's Ricotta Ice Cream
Makes 1 1/2 quarts
2 1/2 C whole-milk good quality ricotta
1 C sugar
3/4 t vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of kosher salt
1 C heavy cream, preferably not ultra-pasteurized
1 T Strega liqueur or rum, to taste
2 to 3 T each of chopped pistachios, candied orange peel and bittersweet chocolate, or any combination (optional)
Place fresh ricotta, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and salt in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add cream and blend. Taste for the important balance of salt. Add Strega or rum to taste. Refrigerate until completely chilled.
Freeze in an ice cream machine. Add the chopped pistachios, orange peel and chocolate at the end. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer container, top with a piece of plastic wrap pressed into the surface and freeze until firm.
Fresh Homemade Ricotta
adapted from Gourmet
2 quarts whole milk
1 C heavy cream
1/2 t salt
3 T fresh lemon juice
Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth and place it in your sink.
Over moderate heat in a large 6-quart pot, slowly bring milk, cream and salt to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. When it reaches a boil, add the lemon juice, then reduce heat to low. Stirring constantly, simmer until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes.
Carefully and slowly pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined colander and let it drain for 1 hour. Discard the liquid. Cover and chill the ricotta.