Friday, July 10, 2015

Cardamom Ice Cream with Almond Crumble

Summer desserts are often served à la mode and for stone fruit pies, cobblers and crisps, this Cardamom Ice Cream with Almond Crumble is one that will definitely complement our season's best apricots, peaches, nectarines, cherries, figs and plums quite well, not to mention pears and chocolate. 

Cardamom is a spice of pure mystery.  Among all the spices used in pastry, its aroma is probably the most haunting and its flavor most unique.  It’s a spice I find completely impossible to resist.  Native to India and Indonesia, Guatemala has become the biggest producer for world-wide consumption.  Cardamom is also a spice often used in Scandinavian pastries and as a flavoring in Turkish coffee and Masala Chai, an Indian spiced tea.

The almond crumble adorns each serving for a bit of a crunch and flavor but with or without, this is an ice cream that celebrates the distinct beauty of cardamom, pure and simple.

Bench notes:
- Rather then milk and cream in equal parts, you can also use 3 cups of half-and-half.
- I like it as is, but after you’ve steeped the base with cardamom, taste for sugar.  Add more if you’d like and heat the mixture again just to dissolve it.
- Salt is necessary to make the flavor pop.  Add just a few grains at a time and taste.  You'll know when to stop.
- When cooking a custard base for ice cream, it’s best to use a heatproof rubber spatula or a flat bottomed wooden spoon to stir rather than a whisk, for two reasons: a whisk will create air bubbles and make it harder to see how quickly the mixture is thickening and 2) you need a utensil that will scrape a broad surface area of the bottom of the pan to keep the mixture from heating too quickly and scrambling. The main goal is to stir constantly and thicken the mixture without letting it come to a boil.  I like to cook it on medium low heat for more control and lift the pan up if it’s heating too quickly.
- Since homemade ice cream doesn't contain any commercial emulsifiers, let it sit out for a few minutes to soften before serving.
- The crumble crisps up as it cools.  If you have any leftovers, store it in an airtight container.
- Pistachios would make a good substitution for the almonds in the crumble.

Cardamom Ice Cream with Almond Crumble
Makes about 1 1/2  pints

1 1/2 cups (12 oz) milk                                          
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) heavy cream
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) sugar                            
10 whole green cardamom pods, crushed                  
4 egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt, to taste

Almond Crumble
1/3 cup (1 5/8 oz) flour
2 tablespoons (26 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (26 grams) dark brown sugar
slight pinch cardamom
slight pinch salt
1 1/2 oz (3 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (1 oz) sliced almonds

Combine the milk, heavy cream, sugar and crushed cardamom pods in a saucepan.  Stir and simmer over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat, cover and infuse for 30 minutes or until it’s reached the right strength for you.  Strain out the crushed cardamom pods.

Whisk the yolks together.  Slowly add the cream mixture, whisking continuously.  Pour the mixture back into the pan and return to medium low heat.  Cook very gently just until the mixture thickens slightly, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula to prevent the mixture from coming to a boil.  To test for doneness, it should coat the spatula and when you run your finger through it, it leaves a trace. Take off the heat immediately and pour through a strainer into a clean container.  Add 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom, lemon juice and salt, to taste.  When completely cooled, cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled or overnight.

For the almond crumble, whisk together the flour, sugars, spice and salt until thoroughly combined.  Cut the butter into small pieces and place on top of the dry ingredients.  Toss the mixture, thoroughly coating the butter with flour.  Rub the mixture together with your fingers until all the butter is worked into the dry ingredients, pinching it here and there until it collects and resembles coarse crumbles.  Add the sliced almonds and combine.  Chill until the oven is ready.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat.

Spread the almond mixture on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer so the crumbles are close together.  Bake the crumble until browned, about 10 - 12 minutes.  The mixture will merge together and look like a sheet cookie.  Place on a wire rack and let it cool completely to set up.  Break into small pieces and set aside in an airtight container. 

Freeze the ice cream base in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Pour into a clean airtight container.  Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface and cover.  Place in your freezer to firm up. 

To serve, let the ice cream sit for a few minutes at room temperature for easier scooping.  Serve with a topping of almond crumble.

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